I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to protect North Atlantic right whales from the threat of vessel strikes in U.S. waters.
The remaining North Atlantic right whales face daily threats in waters from Maine to Florida as they share the busy ocean with thousands of vessels. But with only about 360 North Atlantic right whales remaining, there is no room for error. Federal scientists advise that even one whale death from human causes each year is too many to help this species survive, thrive, and recover.
Recent research from both private and government researchers shows that the current vessel speed regulations are not adequate and that most vessels regularly exceed both required and voluntary speed limits from New England to Florida. Further, an entire class of smaller vessels is exempt from these speed regulations but are still very dangerous to North Atlantic right whales.
As the Secretary of Commerce, you bear responsibility for the health and welfare of our oceans including North Atlantic right whales. We urge you to take immediate action to expand, strengthen, and enforce vessel speed rules to protect this critically endangered species.
These improved regulations must:
- Expand and establish new Seasonal Management Areas;
- Make compliance with Dynamic Management Areas mandatory;
- Expand the Vessel Speed Rule to include vessels under 65 feet in length;
- Expand Automatic Identification System (AIS) requirements to include vessels under 65 feet in length and require continuous use of AIS;
We can protect North Atlantic right whales and prevent extinction, but it will require bold stewardship from our government leaders to take the necessary action. We urge you to do what is needed for the whales by beginning the process to revise our current vessel speed regulations immediately.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.