New Proposed Vessel Speed Regulations and New Draft Ropeless Gear Roadmap to Boost Protection of North Atlantic Right Whales

Today, NOAA Fisheries announced two important steps in a series of actions the agency is taking to protect and conserve North Atlantic right whales. We announced proposed changes to federal vessel speed regulations to further reduce the likelihood of right whale deaths and serious injuries that result from collisions with vessels. We also announced a new draft Ropeless Roadmap: A Strategy to Develop On-Demand Fishing. Both of these efforts are part of our North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery, a strategy that encapsulates all of our ongoing work across the agency and in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders to conserve and rebuild the North Atlantic right whale population.

Proposed Changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule

The proposed changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule will further protect the whales from death and serious injuries resulting from collisions. The changes expand the current mandatory seasonal speed restrictions of 10 knots or less in designated ocean areas and now include most vessels measuring 35 to 65 feet in length. They also broaden the spatial boundaries and timing of the seasonal speed restriction areas along the East Coast of the U.S. The agency will conduct three informational webinars on these proposed changes. The specifics for those webinars are available online.

Draft Ropeless Roadmap: A Strategy to Develop On-Demand Fishing

Our draft Ropeless Roadmap describes the current state of on-demand, or “ropeless,” fishing and outlines a path for increasing adoption of this technology in commercial fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The report is available online for public review and input. The agency plans to collect input at existing meetings and through an online feedback form.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species. The latest preliminary estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 remaining, with less than 100 reproductively active females. NOAA Fisheries and our partners are dedicated to conserving and rebuilding the North Atlantic right whale population through a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect, and recover the endangered whales.

For more information on either of these actions, please visit our website.


Vessel Strike Reduction Rule: Lauren Gaches, NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs, 202-740-8314

Ropeless Roadmap: Teri Frady, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 508-495-2239