Demand Slower Ship Speeds in Endangered Whale Habitat


Target: Sam Rauch, Head of the National Marine Fisheries Service

Goal: Extend the ship speed limit rule in the North Atlantic right whale habitat beyond the December 2013 expiration date

After North Atlantic right whale populations were decimated by the commercial shipping industry, the National Marine Fisheries Service stepped in and placed a 10-knot speed limit on the Atlantic coast. However, the 2008 rule included an absurd “sunset” provision, meaning the rule will expire unless the NFMS acts to extend it. The right whale is on the brink of extinction largely because of collisions with shipping vessels; thus, it is imperative that the rule be extended.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest species of whale in the world, with a mere 400 remaining. Despite being afforded endangered species protection for over three decades, ship strikes remain the most serious threat to their survival. One or two whales are killed by ship strike per year, with more likely going unrecorded. The whales’ coastal breeding, feeding, and nursing grounds unfortunately overlap with some of our country’s busiest shipping routes.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently conducted a review of the rule, concluding that not only should it be extended, but also amended to afford greater protections for the highly endangered species. Despite the agency’s findings, it has yet to act.

“Slower ships will speed up right whale recovery by avoiding collisions in the places where these whales raise their families,” said Sarah Uhlemann, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. Reducing ship speeds will also avoid collisions with other protected whales, including fin, minke, and humpack whales, and protect the environment by reducing noise and air pollution.

The National Marine Fisheries Service must be encouraged to act to avoid any gaps in protection for the critically endangered right whale. Protect this majestic creature by demanding an extension of ship speed limits beyond December 2013.


Dear Mr. Rauch,

Your organization recently conducted a review of the rule that limits ship speeds to 10 knots in the North Atlantic right whale habitat and found that it should be extended. Despite this, you have yet to act. As you are well-aware, the right whale is critically endangered and cannot afford any gaps in protection due to your agency’s inaction.

Not only did you find that the rule should be extended, but that the rule should be amended to afford greater protection for the right whale. Other conservation and animal protection groups have recommended expanding the protected area and increasing times when speed restrictions apply. These protections would not only benefit the right whale, but also other protected whales. Reduced noise and air pollution would have profound effects on the environment.

Ship strikes remain one of the biggest threats to the survival of the right whale. Extending the ship speed limit rule is a no-brainer. Please act to protect these critically endangered creatures immediately.


[Your Name Here]

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  1. Would you appreciate someone plowing through your home?

  2. “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. —St. Francis of Assisi…”

  3. Nothing is a no-brainer, and everything has two sides. I think the language of this petition is offensive and, even though I agree with the cause, I can’t sign it because of the wording.

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