Reducing Ship Strikes to North Atlantic Right Whales
The purpose of this information is to reduce the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries to these endangered whales that result from collisions with ships.
Vessel Speed Restrictions
All vessels 65 feet (19.8 meters) or longer must travel at 10 knots or less in certain locations (called Seasonal Management Areas or SMAs) along the U.S. east coast at certain times of the year to reduce the threat of ship collisions with endangered North Atlantic right whales. The purpose of this regulation is to reduce the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries to these endangered whales that result from collisions with ships.
- Compliance Guide (PDF, 2 pages)
- Final Rule to eliminate sunset provision on speed restrictions (12/09/13, 78 FR 73726)
- Proposed rule to eliminate sunset provision on speed restrictions (06/06/2013, 78 FR 34024)
- Economic Analysis of North Atlantic Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule (2012, PDF 49 pages)
- Final rule to implement speed restrictions (10/10/2008, 73 FR 60173)
Seasonal Management Areas - Northeast
Cape Cod Bay, January 1 - May 15
Includes all waters of Cape Cod Bay with Northern Boundary of 42º04'56.5"N, 070º12'W to 42º12'N, 070º12'W then due west back to shore.
Off Race Point, March 1 - April 30
Waters Bounded by:
41º40'N, 069º45'W then due west back to shore.
Great South Channel, April 1 - July 31
Waters Bounded by:
41º40'N, 069º45'W then back to starting point.
Seasonal Management Areas - Mid-Atlantic
Migratory Route and Calving Grounds, November 1 - April 30
Block Island Sound waters bounded by:
40º51'53.7" N 070º36'44.9" W
41º20'14.1" N 070º49'44.1" W
41º04'16.7" N 071º51'21.0" W
40º35'56.5" N 071º38'25.1" W then back to starting point.
Within a 20-nm (37 km) radius of the following (as measured seaward from the COLREGS lines):
-Ports of New York/New Jersey:
-Entrance to the Delaware Bay
(Ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington):
-Entrance to the Chesapeake Bay
(Ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore):
-Ports of Morehead City and Beaufort, NC: 34º41'32.0"N 076°40'08.3"W
Within a continuous area 20-nm from shore between Wilmington, North Carolina, to Brunswick, Georgia, bounded by the following:
A- 34º10'30"N, 077º49'12"W
B- 33º56'42"N, 077º31'30"W
C- 33º36'30"N, 077º47'06"W
D- 33º28'24"N, 078º32'30"W
E- 32º59'06"N, 078º50'18"W
F- 31º50'00"N, 080º33'12"W
G- 31º27'00"N, 080º51'36"W
and west back to the shore.
Seasonal Management Areas - Southeast
Calving and Nursery Grounds, November 15 - April 15
Vessel speed is restricted in the area bounded to the north by latitude 31º27'N; to the south by latitude 29º45'N; to the east by longitude 080º51'36"W.
Dynamic Management Areas
Voluntary Dynamic Management Areas (DMAs) may also be established by NOAA Fisheries. Mariners are encouraged to avoid these areas or reduce speeds to 10 knots or less while transiting through these areas. NOAA Fisheries will announce DMAs to mariners through its customary maritime communication media and display any active ones below, with the most recent designation first.
Nantucket, MA DMA -- in effect between February 20, 2020 and March 6, 2020
Great South Channel Area to Be Avoided
For ships weighing 300 gross tons or more, a voluntary seasonal Area To Be Avoided (ATBA) is in effect each year from April 1 to July 31, when right whales face their highest risk of ship strikes in this area.
Boston, Massachusetts Traffic Separation Scheme
The North-South lanes of the Traffic Separation Scheme servicing Boston were narrowed from 2 miles to 1.5 miles (consistent with the East-West Boston Traffic Separation Scheme lanes) to reduce vessel collisions with whales.
Charts of Approaches to Boston Traffic Separation Scheme and Area to be Avoided:
- 13200: Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals
- 13203: Georges Bank Western Part
- 13006: West Quoddy Head to New York
Recommended Routes in Key Right Whale Habitats
NOAA established recommended vessel routes in four locations to reduce the likelihood of ship collisions in key right whale habitats in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida.
- Recommended Routes (PDF, 2 pages)
Mandatory Ship Reporting System
When ships greater than 300 gross tons enter two key right whale habitats—one off the northeast U.S. and one off the southeast U.S.—they are required to report to a shore-based station.
In return, ships receive a message about right whales, their vulnerability to ship strikes, precautionary measures the ship can take to avoid hitting a whale, and locations of recent sightings.
Mandatory Ship Reporting System areas will soon be available on all NOAA Electronic Navigation Chart products.
Mariner Training Resources
We're working on making our materials available online. In the interim, if you'd like a copy of our Prudent Mariner's Guide to Right Whale Protection CD please contact Peter Kelliher.
Report a Ship Strike
Report ship strikes to the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network.