The North Atlantic right whale, as seen from a plane
Photograph taken by Wildlife Trust under NOAA-issued permit number 594-1759-00, issued to GDNR.
NOAA’s electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) that cover the approaches to the east coast now alert mariners when they are approaching the right whale seasonal management areas, giving them better information to plan to reduce their speeds or avoid the areas altogether.
The seasonal management areas, as encoded into the ENCs, graphically show the areas where vessels greater than 65 feet in length must travel at 10 knots or less to reduce the risk of collisions with right whales. The ENCs will also provide for an alarm on the ship’s electronic chart display and information system as vessels enter the speed zone, further alerting the bridge watchstander of speed restrictions.
The four small-scale charts are US2EC04M, US2EC03M, US2EC02M, and US2GC12M. NOAA encoded and posted these charts on March 9, and they are now available for download and use.
The North Atlantic right whale, as seen from a boat
Photograph taken by NOAA under NOAA-issued permit number 775-1600, issued to NEFSC.
With as few as 400 in existence, North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered whales in the world. The slow moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship collisions, since their migration route crosses major east coast shipping lanes.
In 2008, NOAA issued a regulation requiring all vessels over 65 feet in length to travel at 10 knots or less in areas where North Atlantic right whales feed and reproduce, as well as along their migratory routes. By helping mariners become more aware of the areas and the restrictions, NOAA’s newest generation of electronic charts should assist the mariner with voyage planning and provide greater protections for North Atlantic right whales.
For more information on vessel speed restrictions for North Atlantic right whale conservation, contact the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries Service’s Northeast Regional Office (978-281-9328) or Southeast Regional Office (904-321-2806).
North Atlantic Right Whales, NOAA Fisheries Service