Feds propose speed limit to protect right whales

Hoping to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, the U.S. government has proposed making large vessels in the North Atlantic obey an ocean speed limit of 10 knots — about 11.5 mph — during the times of the year when whales are in the area. (If they were left whales, would they get the same protection? We wonder.) Ships and fishing nets are the most common causes of death for the whales, whose migration paths overlap with East Coast shipping lanes. Had a speed limit been in place over the last few decades, says researcher Amy Knowlton, two-thirds of whale deaths by ship strike would have been prevented. Each whale counts; only 350 right whales remain in the wild in the Northern Hemisphere. The limit — opposed by the shipping industry, of course — would apply to boats over 65 feet long, including commercial fishing boats, passenger ferries, and whale watching ships. The proposal is open to public comment until August 23.