To Focus on Reducing
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SGloucester, Mass. -- NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has scheduled four public meetings in September and October to discuss the problem of ships hitting endangered North Atlantic right whales. The meetings have a dual purpose: (1) to provide information on right whales and ship strikes, and (2) to gather suggestions and ideas on how ship strikes can be prevented.
The four-hour long meetings are intended for port authorities, pilots, shipping agents and others with maritime interests, representatives from conservation and scientific groups, shipping companies, state and federal agencies, and any other interested parties.
Each meeting will include presentations on: right whales and ship strikes; a description of whale protection measures that have been taken to date; and management options currently being analyzed by NMFS's Ship Strike Committee, which is a component of NMFS's Northeast Region/Southeast Region Implementation Team for the Recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale.
The meetings are scheduled for September 13 in Port Newark, New Jersey; September 14 in Silver Spring, Maryland; September 28 in Savannah, Georgia; and October 5 in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Northern right whales are one of the most endangered large animals on earth. Biologists estimate the total right whale population in the western North Atlantic is approximately 300 animals. Since 1991, between one and two right whales per year are known to have been killed or seriously injured in collisions with ships along the East Coast.
NMFS is the federal agency responsible for protecting marine mammals and endangered marine species. The Northeast Implementation Team was established in 1994 to work on a plan to protect right whales. The team established the Ship Strike Committee in 1995 to study the problem of collisions and to identify and analyze possible solutions.
The committee is chaired by Bruce Russell, a marine environmental consultant, and co-chaired by Amy Knowlton, a scientist with the New England Aquarium. Russell and Knowlton have produced a paper ("Discussion Draft: Right Whales and Ship Management Options") that analyzes possible protection measures, such as requiring vessels to temporarily reduce speed or to re-route around known aggregations of right whales.
That paper will be discussed at the four regional meetings. It is available on line at NMFS's whale plan web site (http://www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/ – see the Ship Strike Reduction section). Anyone with questions about the meetings may contact Bruce Russell at (301) 656-1751 or firstname.lastname@example.org