Virginia Whale – Vessel Interactions

Each year, from November to April, fishermen and other mariners encounter whales as they migrate along the Virginia coast.

During this time, the Coast Guard, in partnership with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, enforces the Ship Strike Reduction Rule (50 CFR 224.105) for a seasonal management area in the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Coast Guard, vessels greater than or equal to 65 feet in length are subject to a 10-knot speed limit in the management area. The purpose of the regulation is to decrease the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries to whales that result from collisions with ships, including the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

Additionally, the Coast Guard has been notifying commercial and recreational boaters of key regulations concerning approaching whales.

* All boaters within half a mile of any whale species are required to reduce speed to 7 knots or less.

* Approaching within 500 yards of a Right Whale is a violation of federal law that can result in civil or criminal penalties under the Endangered Species Act.

* All boaters are required to maintain a 100-foot buffer zone for all other whale species.

Coast Guard vessels are actively monitoring the management area to ensure compliance. Throughout the season the Coast Guard transmits marine information broadcasts, which include locations of whale sightings, via channel VHF-FM channel 16.

source: USCG