Slow Down and Save the Whales

Study shows boaters need a warning — not a ticket — for speeding in protected waters.

June 6, 2014

North Atlantic Right Whale

The NOAA study showed that boaters care about protecting rare species like this North Atlantic Right Whale. Courtesy

It turns out most boaters are more than willing to slow down to save whales if somebody simply asks them to pull back on the throttles.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently completed a study of how to keep commercial and recreational boaters to 10 knots or less in East Coast protected areas where endangered North Atlantic Right Whales migrate seasonally. NOAA enacted the speed regulation in 2008 that requires boats 65 feet or longer to slow down.

More than 8,000 boats made more than 200,000 trips through the protected waters between late 2008 and mid-2013. Of those, only 26 boaters received citations and fines for exceeding the speed rule. A far greater number, 437, received reminders without citations or fines from NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.


By the end of the study, compliance with the speed regulation was vastly improved.

“We’ve shown that notifying the mariners of their responsibilities, along with issuing citations when applicable, results in widespread compliance,” Donna Wieting, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, stated in a news release.

The two biggest threats that North Atlantic Right Whales face are collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear. Scientists believe only about 450 of the whales remain.


Learn more about where the whales are — so you, too, can slow down — at


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