Changes in Vessel Operations Protects Whales

Years of study and effort by NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard will pay off this summer when two changes to shipping lanes into Boston are implemented. Both changes significantly reduce the risk of collisions between large ships and whales.

Beginning on June 1, ships 300 gross tons and above will be asked to avoid an area in the Great South Channel from April through July, when right whales face the highest chance of being struck by ships. The channel is a feeding area for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Also, ships transiting primarily from the south and entering Boston Harbor in shipping lanes will travel a slightly different path.  The north-south traffic lanes have been modified to reduce the threat of ship collisions with endangered right whales and other whale species. The width of the north-south portion of the lanes will narrow from a total of four miles to three miles. The width of the east-west portion of the lanes was narrowed and modified in 2007.Implementing the “Area To Be Avoided” and narrowing the “Traffic Separation Scheme” by one nautical mile will reduce the relative risk of right whale ship strikes by an estimated 74 percent during April-July (63 percent from the area to be avoided and 11 percent from the narrowing of the Traffic Separation Scheme).

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