NOAA Fisheries announced Tuesday that a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone has been established to protect a group of four North Atlantic right whales sighted two nautical miles south of Nantucket on June 30, according to a press release.
Mariners are asked to travel at 10 knots or less inside the area where the whales were spotted, in order to avoid ship collisions with the endangered species. Effective through July 15, either slow to 10 knots or avoid the area of 41 32 N, 40 54 N, 070 29 W, 069 36 W.
Mandatory speed restrictions of 10 knots or less are also in effect in the Great South Channel through July 31.
In 2017, 17 whales died, plus an additional mortality in January 2018, totaling about 4 percent of the entire right whale population. Also in 2017, two right whale carcasses washed up on Vineyard beaches, and two other carcasses were found on Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands. This sparked an increased local effort by the NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to protect the whales from further harm. Migratory patterns of right whales trace directly through parts of Nantucket and Vineyard Sound as they travel to seasonal plankton blooms for food. The whales are a critically endangered species, with a population estimated at about 450 animals, according to the release.
Right whale sightings in any location may be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard via channel 16 or through the Whale Alert iPhone/iPad app.
For more information about ship strike reduction regulations, visit nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike.