North Atlantic Right Whale Management Measures

Wednesday, June 05, 2002
In August 2001, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed ship traffic management measures as a means of reducing the incidence of ship strikes and resulting fatalities of the North Atlantic Right Whale. There are approximately 350 surviving Right Whales, and they are considered to be the most endangered of the large mammals. Through federal regulation, the NMFS implemented a "mandatory ship reporting system" to increase the industry's awareness of the problem and encourage the coastal shipping community to take actions to reduce Right Whale fatalities. At the insistence of the shipping community and several ports along the Atlantic Coast, NMFS contracted for a report on the cost of such management measures to the shipping industry. The final report provides an economic analysis of the effects on shipping along the U.S. East Coast from Penobscot River, Maine to Port Canaveral, Florida. The report assumes a 10-knot speed limit imposed on vessel traffic into and out of most ports for a distance of 25 nautical miles during the annual migration "season" of 60 days. Some ports would face additional constraints for up to 120 days due to the "critical habitat sites" for the Right Whale. The average estimated cost of the management measures for large ports are $1.3 million annually and $300,000 annually for smaller ports. Based on these estimates, the cost of the ship strike management measures to vessel operators along the East Coast -- including tugs and barges -- would total between $10 - $16 million annually. The analysis relied on vessel traffic data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Waterborne Commerce of the United States (1999) and specific port call information provided by individual port authorities. The report outlines vessel traffic for dry bulk carriers, tankships, container vessels and tug and barge units. NMFS and the shipping community need to review and approve the report prior to the promulgation of regulations for the implementation of management measures. Source: AWO Letter

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