Saturday, November 13, 2010

{Press} Mariners warned to keep eye out for migrating whales

ENCToday.com | November 13, 2010

"November marks the start of the North Atlantic right whale calving season, and mariners are reminded to keep watch for the rare whales as they migrate along the East Coast.

NOAA Fisheries Service announced the start of the calving season, which begins Monday and continues through April 15, and asks boaters in the southeast United States to report sightings of the endangered whale and to keep a distance of at least 500 yards from the protected species.

Scientists estimate as few as 350 right whales remain, making it one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

Each winter, pregnant right whales migrate southward from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida to give birth and nurse their young.

These southern waters are the only known calving area for the species, NOAA said.
Right whales are dark with no dorsal fin, and they often swim slowly at or just below the water’s surface. Despite their large size they can be difficult to see, and a slight textural difference on the water’s surface is often the only clue that a whale is present.

Ship strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear are the two greatest threats to the recovery of North Atlantic right whales, NOAA said.

Information from aerial surveys and underwater buoys is used to alert mariners of the presence of right whales, enabling ships to alter their course to avoid potential collisions with the whales.
North Atlantic right whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Federal law prohibits approaching or remaining within 500 yards of right whales, either by watercraft or aircraft.

Federal law also requires vessels 65 feet long and greater to slow to 10 knots or less in Seasonal Management Areas along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, including the calving and nursery area in the southeastern U.S.

Speed restrictions are in place in various places along the mid Atlantic through April 30, and in the southeast U.S. calving area from Monday through April 15. For more information on seasonal ship speed restrictions, visit nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike/

NOAA Fisheries Service encourages people to report sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales to NOAA at 877-433-8299."

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