In the report on North Atlantic right whale safety, environmental organization Oceana said 72% of vessels on the Virginia coast were exceeding the speed limit, or 10 knots, in mandatory speed zones from Nov. 1, 2020 until July 31, 2022. Along the East Coast, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has seasonal management areas, which are zones where endangered right whales are known to migrate, breed or feed. NOAA regulates speeds for vessels larger than 65 feet during certain seasons in order to lessen the risk of a whale being struck by a vessel in these areas. For the area around the Chesapeake Bay, that season runs from Nov. 1 to April 30. Dynamic management areas, which are voluntary, are times when three or more right whales are spotted, which last about two weeks after the sightings.
“From November 1, 2020, to July 31, 2022, the analysis showed that once again, high percentages of vessels were speeding through both voluntary and mandatory management areas all along the Atlantic Coast,” the report reads. “Current vessel speed regulations are not sufficient to protect the North Atlantic right whale from extinction.”
Specifically, the analysis found 1,208 vessels were speeding near the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay from November 2020 to July 2021, and 1,729 were speeding from November 2021 to July 2022. About 40% of vessels that were caught speeding across the East Coast were cargo ships.