Oceana launches online tool intended to help protect right whales

Oceana has announced the launch of a new online tool called “Ship Speed Watch” that allows anyone with an internet connection to track the speed of ships in special slower-speed zones designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

The new tool comes in the wake of an Oceana study that found ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada were ignoring a voluntary slowdown area, which asked ships not to exceed 10 knots while in an area known to be populated by North Atlantic right whales.

Right whales are one of the most endangered animals on the planet; earlier this month the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the whales as “critically endangered.”

The report, which used Global Fishing Watch data, found that despite the voluntary speed limit the majority of large ships were still traveling far in excess of 10 knots. The most egregious example was a Canadian cargo ship which traveled through a designated slow-down area at 21.1 knots.

“Ship Speed Watch empowers the public, decision-makers, and the government to track ship speeds in near real-time in the speed zones established to protect North Atlantic right whales. For too long, we could only hope that vessels were obeying the speed limits, but with Ship Speed Watch, we can clearly see that ships are ignoring speed zones designed to protect this critically endangered species,” Oceana USA Campaign Director Whitney Webber said. “To protect North Atlantic right whales, we need to expand mandatory speed restriction zones that require ships to slow down when whales are present along their migratory routes. The U.S. and Canada must step up now to protect this species before it’s too late.”   

Slower speeds, Oceana said, can help protect right whales in the area by either giving them time to move, or survive a slower collision. For that reason, the organization is calling on Transport Canada to make the slowdown mandatory, rather than voluntary.

“We know that slowing vessels down increases the likelihood of whales surviving a collision. The more we can do to require slowdowns, rather than making them optional, the better this species’ chance of survival will be,” Oceana Canada Campaign Director Kim Elmslie said. “Transport Canada must immediately implement a mandatory slowdown in the Cabot Strait to effectively protect North Atlantic right whales. In an industry where speed often provides a competitive advantage, we’re concerned that voluntary measures create a disincentive to comply and reward those who do not. A mandatory measure levels the playing field – and, more importantly, will help prevent more whale deaths.”   

Image courtesy of Oceana


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