New rules from the U.S. Coast Guard took effect November 1st, restricing the speed of larger vessels in areas known to provide critical right whale habitat. Until April 30th, 2010, vessels longer than 65 feet must not exceed speeds of more than 10 knots in large portions of the coastal waters between Rhode Island and Georgia. Fewer than 400 right whales remain alive today, and since 2001, 12 have died from ship collisions along the East Coast.
The 10-knot speed restriction extends out to 20 nautical miles around major mid-Atlantic ports.
According to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, about 83 percent of right whale sightings in the mid-Atlantic region occur within 20 nautical miles of shore.
The speed restriction also applies in waters off New England and the southeastern United States, where whales gather seasonally.
The speed restrictions apply in the following approximate locations at the following times; they are based on times whales are known to be in these areas:
* Mid-Atlantic U.S. areas from Rhode Island to Georgia from November 1 to April 30
* Southeastern U.S. from St. Augustine, Florida to Brunswick, Georgia from November 15 to April 15
* Cape Cod Bay from January 1 to May 15
* Off Race Point at northern end of Cape Cod from March 1 to April 30
* Great South Channel of New England from April 1 to July 31