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Regulations Governing the Approach to North Atlantic Right Whales


Endangered Species Act
Action Status
Final Rule


Disturbance is identified in the Final Recovery Plan for the Northern Right Whale (Recovery Plan) as among the principal human-induced factors impeding recovery of the northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) (NMFS, 1991). NMFS is issuing this interim final rule to restrict approaches within 500 yards (460 m) of a right whale, whether by vessel, aircraft or other means, in an attempt to reduce the current level of disturbance and the potential for vessel interaction and injury. This rule requires right whale avoidance measures if a vessel or aircraft is within the 500-yard (460 m) restricted area. Generally, vessels are required to immediately depart from the area at a slow, safe speed in a direction away from the whale. Exceptions are provided for emergency situations, where certain authorizations are provided for aircraft operations (unless the aircraft is conducting whale watch activities), for certain right whale disentanglement/rescue efforts and investigations, and for a vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver and unable to comply with the right whale avoidance measures

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on 10/31/2019