Can speed limits protect right whales?

Ship strikes are a common source of mortality for right whales and humpbacks in the North Atlantic. CNN runs a story on how a plan to save critically endangered right whales is muddled in bureaucracy thanks to…

The World Shipping Council, an industry group representing more than two dozen global shipping companies, filed documents with the U.S. federal government opposing the speed limits [to protect 300 remaining right whales] saying the change would cause “significant economic costs”.

The group even suggested that if large ships went faster through the whales’ habitat, the chance of a collision would be lower.

“A quickly moving vessel will pass through the area quickly, and exposure will be small,” the shipping council wrote in a document challenging the limits. “A slowly moving vessel will take longer to pass through the area, exposure will be greater, and the whale will have longer to surface or move in a way that increases jeopardy.”

In response to the group’s theory, [NOAA’s Jim] Lecky [director of the Office of Protected Resources] said: “Would you speed through a school zone?” …

Peter Etnoyer (397 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.


8 Replies to “Can speed limits protect right whales?”

  1. To which the World Shipping Council replied:

    Heck yea we speed through school zones. Take those bumps out in front of the elementary school at 75 and when the arresting officer stops kicking me in the kidneys I say “I get out fast officer, because when I linger people get hurt.”

    Actually,
    One of the teachers who works with our right whale program had his students do the math on how the shipping costs of added time would affect prices. They came up with 2 cents extra for an iPod, $20 extra for a car. But hey, it’s only the most endangered whale species in the world, the savings is probably more important.

  2. I would be interested to see why slowing down for a spell causes so much economic disruption to the shipping industry. You don’t think WSC embarked on this economic analysis just to get paid to obey the law, do you? That would be sad.

  3. The reefers and ro-ro’s I dealt with in the middle east only did 18-22 knots anyways, so maybe double the time for that 30 mile bubble zone…since it’s a bubble, the worst would be a 15 mile zone. 15 miles at 10 knots is what, 1h 30min? Versus 45 min? I could understand if they were talking about the 200mile EEZ but it’s only a 15 mile radius.

  4. They’re already slowing down to save on fuel. I think some companies are talking about reducing fleet speeds to 16 knots (from 23 a few years ago). 10 knots will double the fuel efficiency once again. Unless they’re transporting transplant organs their clients will survive.

  5. ” Unless they’re transporting transplant organs their clients will survive.”

    You’d think the least they could do would be to pull over and harvest the whales. Think “searoad kill.”

  6. But then you deplete the habitat of the zombie whale bone eating worm from hell! OH NOEZ~!1!!!!11

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