Right Whale Speed limits: NOAA imposed $1.1 million Fines for Busting 10 knots Since 2021
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is stepping up enforcement of vessel speed limits when endangered North Atlantic right whales are on the move. The agency has used satellite technology and even highway patrol-style speed radar to nab violators.
In 2021-2022 NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement reported bringing 19 complaints against vessel operators for exceeding a 10-knot speed limit that the agency declares in “seasonal management areas” from November to July as the right whales move off the U.S. East Coast. The agency levied $218,500 in penalties on those operators.
OLE brought 53 cases in 2022-2023, with total potential penalties of $882,806.
Meanwhile, the agency says Northeast fishermen’s compliance with lobster and crab gear rules to protect whales is on the upswing, with 87 percent of inspected vessels now found to be using all the required gear modifications.
Since the rules took effect in May 2022, NOAA, state and Coast Guard officers have conducted more than 250 lobster and crab pot/trap fixed gear-focused patrols, the agency says.
“During those patrols, agents and officers have inspected more than 1,800 individual vessels for compliance with the new gear modification and marking requirements,” according to OLE. “About 73 percent of vessels were compliant when the new regulations went into effect. As of June 2023, the compliance rate climbed to about 87 percent.”
Big ships are known to accidentally kill whales, especially around busy shipping lanes close to East Coast ports. Since 2016 NOAA has been monitoring what it calls an “unusual mortality event” of humpback whale strandings on the Atlantic coast beaches. Necropsies on dead whales have shown evidence of ship strikes.
Read More at nationalfisherman.com.