Marine Mammals: Right Whales and Ship Strikes

Right whale flukes submerging in ocean
Right whale flukes (NOAA Photo Library)

The International Maritime Organization Approves U.S. Proposal to Realign the Traffic Separation Scheme Servicing Boston to Protect Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales (December 9, 2006).

In April 2006, the United States submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) a proposal to reconfigure the "Traffic Separation Scheme" (TSS) that services Boston, Massachusetts. The proposed realignment was developed by NOAA and backed by a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) analysis regarding navigational safety. Involving only a 12-degree shift in the northern leg and narrowing the two traffic lanes by approximately one-half mile each way, the realignment is expected to provide a significant reduction in ship strike risk to right whales and all baleen whale species occurring in the area, with minimal concurrent impact to mariners using the TSS. NOAA estimates that the changes in the TSS will result in a 58 percent reduction in the risk of ship strikes to right whales, and an 81 percent risk reduction in ship strikes of other large whale species occurring in the area. The IMO's Maritime Safety Committee endorsed the proposal on December 9, 2006.

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