North Atlantic right whales are migrating south along the Atlantic coast, according to recent announcements from the U.S Coast Guard, NOAA Fisheries, and state agencies.
Right whales are slow moving and at risk of serious injury or death due to collisions with vessels. They may be encountered in offshore and coastal waters.
Every winter, right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida’s east coast.
North Atlantic right whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Intentionally approaching within 500 yards of right whales is prohibited and is a violation of U.S. law. A minimum distance of 500 yards must be maintained from a sighted whale unless hazardous to the vessel or its occupants.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that operators assume that any whale sighted is a right whale unless confirmed otherwise. NOAA also recommends speeds of 10 knots or less in areas used by right whales and outside of seasonally managed areas when consistent with safety of navigation.
Mariners can report sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales by contacting NOAA Fisheries at 1-877-WHALE-HELP or the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF channel 16. For more information, consult the U.S. Coast Pilot.
sources: NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Coast Guard