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US Coast Guard sets 10-knot speed limit to save the whales

The US Coast Guard has set a 10-knot speed limit off much of the US east coast for vessels of 65 feet (19.8 metres) or more at certain times of the year.

The speed restriction also applies in waters off New England and the southeastern US, where whales gather seasonally, according to Marine Safety Information Bulletin Number 34-17 issued by the US Coast Guard, sector Delaware Bay.

The regulations established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are designed to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales by reducing the likelihood of collisions between ships and whales.

The 10-knot speed limit will extend 20 nautical from shore around major Atlantic ports. NOAA says 83 per cent of right whale sightings in the mid-Atlantic region occur within 20 nautical miles of shore. 

The speed restrictions apply in the following locations at the following times whales are known to be in these areas:

(1) Southeastern US from St Augustine, Florida to Brunswick, Georgia from November 15 to April 15; (2) Mid-Atlantic US areas from Brunswick to Rhode Island from November 1 to April 30; (3) Cape Cod Bay from January 1 to May 15; (4) off Race Point at the northern end of Cape Cod from March 1 to April 30; and (5) Great South Channel of New England from April 1 to July 31. 

Specifically for vessels entering Delaware Bay, the speed restriction applies in the following location: Within a 37- kilometre radius (as measured seaward from COLREGS lines) of the centre point of the entrance to Delaware Bay.

For more information about the speed restriction please visit the NOAA website http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike/ or call Sector Delaware Bay Waterways Management Branch at (215) 271-4889.

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