Coast Guard, NOAA reminds mariners to slow down to protect right whales

[LEFT]PHILADELPHIA — The Coast Guard reminded large vessel operators Wednesday that Operation Right Speed is in effect until the end of April 2012, to protect right whales in mid-Atlantic waters where they are known to migrate.

Collisions with ships and interaction with fishing gear are a major cause of mortality and injury to the North Atlantic right whale.The Coast Guard is working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a shared goal of conserving and rehabilitating the whale’s population. NOAA fisheries implemented the regulations, which require vessels 65-feet or greater to operate at 10 knots or less over ground in certain locations at certain times of year along the east coast of the Atlantic seaboard consistent with the animals migratory pattern.As an ocean steward and the federal government’s primary at-sea enforcement agency, the Coast Guard is responsible for conserving the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. The whales are among the most depleted of all large whales worldwide with the global population being approximately 300-400.

"The Coast Guard, as one of the United States’ primary protected species stewards, continues to protect the right whale from ship strikes and other man-made threats in areas where they tend to congregate,” said Lt. Trevor Blount, deputy enforcement chief for Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia. “Coast Guard efforts are largely focused on educational measures that ensure mariners are aware of these areas, followed by warnings and finally issuance of civil penalties to those who egregiously violate speed restrictions in those areas where the right whale is likely to be found."Historical records indicate an average of two reported deaths or serious injuries to right whales occur due to ship strikes each year, but it is likely that more occur and go unreported. Even a single human caused death or serious injury a year can impact the population’s ability to survive.

To report a suspected violation in the seasonal management areas call the national hotline at 800-853-1964.

The North Atlantic right whale is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.[/LEFT]

To illuminate on this further, the methods being used (among others) are AIS transmissions from your own vessel. and dated, stamped time entry and exit, using the D/T=S formula. This institution has advanced mapping, and plotting technology and KNOWS exactly how fast you are traveling, when you enter, exit, and your speed not just averaged, but max and complete transit time. Even if you are slowing down to 9.8 (and we all know how we like to maintain our speed!) as your speed ‘bounces’ up and down, whether due to pitch, roll or other inaccuracies, ANY data you transmit becomes THEIR data to skewer you.

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A special note to ATB guys[/B][/I]: Notice how your speed bounces in a heavy seaway on pitching or rolling. sometimes mine jumps almost a half a knot in a really heavy roll or pitch. An educated mariner would realize (and accept) that this is an inaccurate reading, but the ais transmits everything, in real time. This is THE data they are using to patrol the zones. An afterthought to the speed/data transmission rate. If your AIS speed input can be averaged out to dampen the data that may help, but on my particular vessel the same GPS that gives data to the AIS sends it to the Radar and the plotter. For maneuvering I want instant updates, not dampened data. a conundrum for sure.

From my experience I have found the best way to avoid this is to definitely slow down to 9.2 kts (for my vessel) and to judiciously watch for changes due to current or wind which may push the speed up. They don’t give a darned about you trying to maintain 10 knots. They are giving heck about exceeding it by even 0.1 Knot though! (ask me how I know!)