Tell U.S. Government Officials: Protect North Atlantic Right Whales

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released a new proposed vessel speed rule which aims to reduce the risk of vessel strikes to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Currently around 330 right whales remain, and without stronger protections in place, these animals are facing extinction.

The previous vessel speed rule was issued in 2008 and this updated proposed rule contains critical changes such as including vessels greater than 35 feet in length (compared to the previous 65 feet), expanding seasonal speed zones, and upgrading current voluntary speed zones to mandatory in areas where whales are seen. While these improvements are promising, aggressive action is needed to prevent the extinction of this critically endangered whale.

We are urging the U.S. government to act quickly and implement a strong final rule that better protects North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes. This administration should expand the times and areas where mandatory speed limits are required, require tracking devices at all times on vessels, and increase enforcement of speed limits.

Urge your federal government officials to take action now to strengthen safeguards for North Atlantic right whales by releasing a strong, final vessel strike rule.

Petition Text

Dear Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo,

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s recent proposed vessel speed rule to protect North Atlantic right whales is a step in the right direction, but there are tangible ways the rule can be strengthened to help prevent this species from going extinct. North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered whales in the world, with only around 330 individuals left.

Vessel strike is a leading cause of North Atlantic right whale injury and death. The other main threat is entanglement in fishing gear, with around one-quarter of the population entangled in fishing gear from the U.S. and Canada each year. Oceana’s 2021 report, Speeding Toward Extinction found that most vessels, in some cases, up to 90%, did not comply with mandatory 10-knot slow zones. In voluntary slow zones, 50% to 85% of vessels did not slow down to 10-knots. As the head of the agency tasked with protecting endangered ocean wildlife and overseeing shipping and fishing, you have a legal and moral responsibility to act swiftly. The United States has the tools needed to change the trajectory of these whales from extinction to recovery.

That’s why I am standing with Oceana to call on you to make the final vessel speed rule stronger by adding the following safeguards to the final rule to protect North Atlantic right whales:

  • Expand new seasonal speed zones to include more times and areas that North Atlantic right whales are expected to be present;

  • Require all affected vessels to carry and continuously transmit Automatic Identification System (AIS) devices;

  • Narrow the exception for federal vessels to only those involving national security or safety concerns; and

  • Improve enforcement of speed limits.

Please stand up for North Atlantic right whales. Time is running out, and their survival depends on you.


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