NOAA reports that three large commercial vessels who were assessed civil penalties this fall for violating seasonal speed limits designed to protect North Atlantic Righ Whales (one of the most endangered whale species in the world) have paid their penalties in full. Cases against six other vessels for the same offense are still open.
The ship strike reduction rule, enacted in December 2008, restricts vessels of 65 feet or greater to speeds of 10 knots or less in seasonal management areas along the East Coast to reduce the chances of North Atlantic right whales being injured or killed by ships.
NOAA states that biologists believe that there are as few as 396 right whales left in the North Atlantic Ocean. Right whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The death of even one whale can be devastating to the right whale population. NOAA estimates that a female right whale will need to give birth to four healthy calves over her lifetime to successfully replace herself within the population.