Whale strike regulations pending off U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts

As measures to reduce ship strikes on the North Atlantic Right Whale off the East coast of the U.S. move into their final developmental stages, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has issued an Order to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) directing it to propose a rule to protect the Pacific Right Whale in the Pacific Ocean. 

In this latest development from the U.S., NMFS have been given a choice between developing a proposed rule designating the Pacific Ocean a critical habitat for the Pacific Right Whale, or issuing a notice explaining why such a designation should not be issued. On the basis of the developments on the Atlantic coast, if the NMFS were to designate the Pacific Ocean a critical habitat, then there is a strong suggestion that similar operational requirements on shipping would be established for the U.S. West coast as well. 

However the East coast requirements have still to be finalised. The latest development is the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement by the NMFS. The EIS will examine the strategy proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and determine the overall impact of the strategy’s requirements – which are intended to reduce the number of ship strikes on the North Atlantic Right Whale. These requirements include speed restrictions in designated areas and designated or mandatory routing requirements. Of particular note within the NMFS proposal for an EIS has been the reference made to the impact on the commercial shipping industry by the implementation of NOAA’s Strategy. 
The NMFS has given a deadline of 22nd July for comments on the scope of issues to include in the EIS. INTERTANKO’s Environmental Committee will be considering this further, although comments are invited from all members. The full text of the notice can be viewed here  

Related INTERTANKO article 

Contact: Tim Wilkins