Saturday, November 14, 2009

JaxPort announces new program to protect right whales

"Striking a balance between commerce and the need to protect endangered species."

By Abel Harding,
Story updated at 3:33 AM on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009

"Rick Ferrin, chief executive of the Jacksonville Port Authority, announced Friday that the Right Whale Protection & Ship Recognition Program, designed to better protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale population off the Florida-Georgia coast.

The program, launched with the support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will recognize vessel owners and operators who voluntarily comply with use of recommended travel lanes and abide by mandatory speed restrictions.

“We are striking a balance between commerce and the need to protect endangered species,” Ferrin said.

According to NOAA, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered whales in the world with a population of 300-400.

“What JaxPort is doing is an incredible contribution to right whale recovery,” said Barb Zoodsma, a NOAA official who was at Friday’s announcement.

The Humane Society’s marine issues field director Sharon Young says the new program will not change her group’s petition that is seeking to enlarge the whales “critical habitat.”

Speaking to the program’s recognition of companies that voluntarily comply with the law, Young said that it was good to recognize people for doing the right thing, but she questioned why there were no penalties for companies that failed to comply with the law.

“There’s almost no compliance with mandatory speed restrictions,” Young said, “and we have been encouraging [NOAA] to begin enforcement.”

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