Captain Don Lewis of The National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) yesterday presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Captain Andrew Bielecki
and the crew of the Stena Timer for their efforts and ship management practices during the 2001 northern right whale calving season. The Stena Timer is under charter to Crowley Liner Services and is deployed in the company's Bahamas service
Off the coast of Florida, the calving season lasts from December through the end of March. During that time, the New England Aquarium Early
Warning System (EWS) and authorities from the states of Florida and Georgia monitor the calving area in small planes. The sighting information is passed on to ships passing through the area in an effort to prevent collisions between the ships and the whales. With little more than 300 animals left in the wild, the right whale has been placed on the endangered species list and
the northeast Florida
- southeast Georgia coastline
has been designated a critical habitat for the animals. Captain Bielecki and his crew were recognized for taking extraordinary measures to avoid ship strikes while transiting the critical habitat. Ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement are the leading causes of death for these animals accounting for approximately one-third of the yearly deaths.
"This certificate of appreciation is the first of its kind," said Lewis. "It recognizes the demonstrated commitment to the bridge management
and navigational practices of the captain and crew to protect the right whale."
A program for right whale protection onboard ship usually incorporates three elements: awareness of issues and concerns, intelligence and action.
"Captain Bielecki and the crew of the Stena Timer have done a model job on all three elements," said Lewis.
"Crowley and those companies we contract with for vessel services are dedicated to the safe passage and conservation of the world's sea life," said Tom Crowley Jr.
, Chairman, President and CEO. "They observe information passed to them by agencies such as the EWS and work diligently to navigate the area so as not to disrupt the habits or environment of the ocean's wildlife."