Subject: Right whales - Clinton OKs protection for right whales (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 1 May 1998 12:22:40 -0400 (EDT)


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Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 08:23:03 -0400
From: Dagmar Fertl <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: newsclip - Clinton OKs protection for right whales

     Clinton OKs protection for right whales

     By Environmental News Network staff

     (ENN) -- President Clinton has approved a measure that would require
     large ships entering certain eastern U.S. waters to check with a
     land-based location for a notice on the presence of right whales.

     The proposal, which has been called unprecedented by marine
     biologists and environmentalists, will be presented to the
     International Maritime Organization at a meeting in July in London.
     Clinton approved the measure Thursday.

     If approved by the entire IMO, the measure would help bring the
     plight of endangered species to the forefront of the IMO agenda,
     said Amy Knowlton from the New England Aquarium.

     The measure is intended to protect North Atlantic right whales
     from fatal collisions with large ships -- the No. 1 threat to this
     severely endangered species.

     The right whale population is between 300 and 350 and is thought
     to be declining at a rate of 2.5 percent a year, said Knowlton.
     According to New England Aquarium research, large ships have
     struck and killed at least 15 right whales since 1972.

     If adopted internationally, the regulations would require all captains
     to report to a central location upon entering U.S.-designated
     "critical habitats" for right whales.

     They then would receive general information about right whales
     and the specific location of whales in the area, based on
     information provided by researchers in aerial survey planes. Vessel
     operators can then take action to reduce collisions.

     The U.S. eastern seaboard is home to the right whale and a
     high-traffic area for freighters, cruise ships, car carriers, tankers
     and commercial fishing vessels. Since right whales swim slowly at
     the surface of the water, accidents with large ships happen.

     Since 1990, eight right whales have died as a result of collisions
     with ships, totaling nearly half of the documented right whale
     deaths during that period.

     In 1994, the New England Aquarium began operating an early
     warning system in the southeastern United States. Every winter,
     aquarium researchers conduct daily flyovers of this important right
     whale calving ground. Researchers relay the information to the
     Coast Guard, Navy and local harbor pilots, who in turn relay the
     information to military and commercial vessels.

     Commercial ships, however, have not been required to check in
     for an automatic update. The proposal aims to correct that by
     making a check-in mandatory.

     However, the system, developed by the National Oceanic and
     Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been criticized by
     Pentagon and Navy officials who fear that the reporting system
     would compromise security and freedom of navigation.

     "Mandatory ship reporting will raise awareness and educate ship
     captains about avoiding collisions with right whales. But it's still
     up to the ship captains to make their own decisions," said Scott
     Kraus, New England Aquarium research director and founder of
     its Right Whale Research Project.

     Another threat to right whales is entanglement with fishing gear,
     said Knowlton. Marine scientists and representatives from various
     branches of the federal government are working on a proposal to
     reduce these entanglements.

     "We have a long way to go before whales are at a healthy state,
     but all measures will make a difference," said Knowlton.