The North Atlantic Right Whale is Rare

The North Atlantic Right Whale is Rare

The North Atlantic right whale is black, quite odd-looking, but majestic nonetheless. It’s also rare. So rare, in fact, that it was put on the endangered species list. There are rumored to only be 350 left on the planet. Why so few?

North Atlantic right whales are slow moving creatures. Therefore, they are prone to ship strikes. According to scientists, these whales cross directly into navigational channels against the flow of ship traffic. They are also commonly spotted near shorelines. They are known to swim up and down the Atlantic coast, alone, in a pod or with their babies.

Right whales are spotted mostly around the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. In Virginia, they are most commonly found in Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Bay is located along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is adjacent to Virginia and Maryland. Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and third largest worldwide. Before a new law was passed, faster moving vessels and commercial ships would typically travel between 18 and 22 knots as they entered into Chesapeake Bay.

Coal-carrying ships and larger vessels would enter the bay at 14 or 15 knots. So understandably, it made sense why a new law was passed in Virginia. While within the borders of the Virginia coast, boats and ships are now no longer supposed to exceed 10-knots. There have been a number of large commercial ships (all foreign) that have ignored this new law.

So far, six foreign commercial vessels have been cited for 42 total violations that occurred in the last year. “Two of them - the Irenes Reliance, a Greek-owned ship and the Hanjin Chittagong, a Japanese-owned vessel - were hit with three violations each while traveling in and around the mouth of Chesapeake Bay”, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Therefore, the U.S. government has declared that all ships will now be fined a hefty fee for exceeding the 10-knot speed limit when cruising into Atlantic ports. According to the Virginian-Pilot, the new speed limit applies to any commercial ships over 65 foot long if they are traveling within 20 miles of any port. This law applies from Nov 1st to April 30th. This law is in effect for the Mid-Atlantic, anywhere from Rhode Island to Georgia.

“The 10-knot rule is hard on industry, but they're only in the speed zone for a short while," he said. "It's our job to make them aware [that] they need to slow down.” said Billy Counselman, vice president of the Virginia Pilot Association. The Virginia Pilot Association guides ships coming in from the Atlantic Ocean to Chesapeake Bay.