North Atlantic Right Whale Speed Zone Dashboard
NOAA Fisheries analyzes vessel compliance with speed regulations to monitor the effectiveness of this important conservation measure.
Speed Zone Dashboard
NOAA Fisheries developed an interactive speed zone dashboard that shows high overall vessel compliance with mandatory North Atlantic right whale vessel speed regulations. The vessel traffic data contained in the dashboard are generated from Automatic Identification Systems. They allow users to explore vessel traffic by speed, season, month, speed zone, and vessel type.
North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction. Vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of mortality and serious injury for the species. Right whales have been experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event since 2017. The leading cause of these deaths is human interaction, speciﬁcally from fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes.
NOAA Fisheries and our partners are dedicated to conserving the North Atlantic right whale population. The speed zone dashboard enables us to monitor the effectiveness of our vessel speed regulations.
Vessel Speed Regulations
Most vessels 65 feet or longer must travel at 10 knots or less in certain locations (called Seasonal Management Areas) along the U.S. East Coast at certain times of the year. This reduced speed lowers the threat of vessel collisions with endangered right whales. Because vessels of all sizes can strike a whale, we also encourage vessels less than 65 feet long to slow to 10 knots or less within these areas as well.
We proposed changes to the right whale vessel speed rule to further reduce the likelihood of mortalities and serious injuries to endangered right whales from vessel collisions. We accepted public comment on the proposed rule until October 31, 2022, and anticipate taking final action on the proposed rule in 2023.
Speed Rule Enforcement
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard actively enforce the North Atlantic right whale vessel speed regulations. We help the public comply with the rules that require some vessels to transit at 10 knots or less in designated areas of the ocean during certain times of the year.
To enforce the speed rule, we deploy a number of technologies and strategies, including:
- Industry and public outreach to help prevent violations before they happen
- Automatic Identification Systems to detect speeding
- Portable radar units to detect speeding by vessels not carrying AIS
- Active patrolling of Seasonal Management Areas
NOAA has assessed $950,306 in civil penalties for vessels exceeding these regulations across 56 cases in 2022 and 2023. In addition to these cases, other speeding violations are being actively investigated and may be subject to potential civil penalties.
We also provide the public with the information they need to comply with rules. Since 2018, we have sent approximately 1,000 compliance letters to vessel owners along the Atlantic coast about the current vessel speed rule and the potential penalties for violations. Reacting in near-real time and using satellite-based technologies, we have sent more than 250 alerts to vessels operating in close proximity to right whales.