Reducing Ship Strikes to North Atlantic Right Whales

Vessel Speed Restrictions

All vessels 65 feet (19.8 meters) or longer must travel at 10 knots or less in certain locations (Seasonal Management Areas) 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.

Seasonal Management Areas - Northeast

Map of Seasonal Management Areas off the Northeast coast

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: 42º04'56.5"N, 070º12'W

42º12'N, 070º12'W

42º12'N, 070º30'W

42º30'N, 070º30'W

42º30'N, 069º45'W

41º40'N, 069º45'W then due west back to shore.

Great South Channel April 1 - July 31

Waters Bounded by: 42º30'N, 069º45'W

42º30'N, 067º27'W

42º09'N, 067º08'24"W

41º00'N, 069º05'W

41º40'N, 069º45'W then back to starting point.

Seasonal Management Areas - Mid-Atlantic

Map of Seasonal Management Areas off the Mid-Atlantic Coast

Migratory Route and Calving Grounds SMAs 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:

40º29'42.2"N 073º55'57.6"W

-Entrance to the Delaware Bay

(Ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington):

38º52'27.4"N 075º01'32.1"W

-Entrance to the Chesapeake Bay

(Ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore):

37º00'36.9"N 075º57'50.5"W

-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, NC, to Brunswick, GA,

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 Area - Southeast

Map of Seasonal Management Area off of Georgia and Florida

Calving and Nursery Grounds SMA - 

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.

2 Nautical Miles South of Nantucket, MA
07/02/18 - 07/15/18

NOAA Fisheries announces that a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (Dynamic Management Area - DMA) has been established 2 nautical miles South of Nantucket, MA to protect an aggregation of 4 right whales sighted in this area on June 30, 2018.  This DMA is in effect immediately through July 15, 2018.  Mariners are requested to route around this area or transit through it at 10 knots or less.

Map of Dynamic Management Area south of Nantucket

Dynamic Management Area Boundary 41 32 N, 40 54 N, 070 29 W, 069 36 W 

Vessel Routing

Vessel routing recommendations to reduce collisions with North Atlantic right whales will soon be available on all NOAA Electronic Navigation Chart products.

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:

 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.

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.

Report a Ship Strike

Report ship strikes to the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network 

Where Are Right Whales?