RIGHT WHALES - What the Prudent Mariner Needs to Know when Operating Along the Mid-Atlantic Region and Southeast Coast
Compliance with Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs): Seasonal speed restrictions of 10 kts or less are effective in the following areas and times for vessels of 65 feet in length or greater:
Mid-Atlantic SMA (November 1st through April 30th, annually): Block Island Sound waters bounded by 40º51'53.7" N 070º36'44.9" W, 41º20'14.1" N 070º49'44.1" W, 41º04'16.7" N 071º51'21.0" W, 40º35'56.5" N 071º38'25.1" W then back to starting point; and within a 20 nm radius seaward of the COLREGS line at the entrances to the ports of New York, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Morehead City, and Beaufort, NC. Additionally, a continuous SMA has been established from shore and the COLREGS line out to 20 nm between Wilmington, NC and Brunswick, GA.
Southeast U.S. SMA (November 15th through April 15th, annually): Includes ports of Brunswick, GA, Fernandina, FL, and Jacksonville, FL. This area extends from the shoreline and COLREGS line east to longitude 80°51.6’W with southern and northern boundaries at latitude 29°45’N and 31°27’N.
When operating in any active SMA, in addition to reducing speed to a maximum of 10 kts, vessels should: Post lookouts trained in spotting right whales; maneuver around whales, and, if practicable, avoid transits in reduced visibility. Vessels entering/departing the ports of Brunswick, Fernandina, & Jacksonville are requested to use the recommended two-way routes. These recommended routes are clearly marked on navigational charts.
Vessels may operate at a speed greater than 10 knots only if necessary to maintain a safe maneuvering speed in an area where oceanographic, hydrographic, and/or meteorological conditions severely restrict vessel maneuverability and the need to operate at such speed is confirmed by the pilot on board or, when a vessel is not carrying a pilot, the master of the vessel. If a deviation is necessary, the following information must be entered in the vessel’s logbook: Reasons for deviation; speed at which vessel operated; latitude and longitude at time of deviation; and, time and duration of deviation. The vessel’s Master must sign and date the logbook entry.
Voluntary Dynamic Management Areas (DMAs): NOAA Fisheries will establish a DMA when three or more whales are discovered outside an active SMA. Mariners are encouraged to avoid these areas or reduce speeds to 10 knots or less if avoidance of the DMA is not possible. DMAs are established for a minimum of 15 days and will be announced through customary maritime communication media.
Compliance with Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) Requirements: MSR is required for vessels of at least 300 gross tons (including tugs with a combined tug & barge gross tonnage above 300 gross tons), who enter the WHALESSOUTH area between November 15th and April 15th. The WHALESSOUTH area extends from the shoreline east to longitude 80°51.6’W with the southern & northern boundaries at latitude 30°00’N and 31°27’N., respectively. This area includes the ports of Brunswick, Fernandina and Jacksonville. Reporting is required as the vessel enters the WHALESSOUTH zone.
All ships equipped with INMARSAT C must report in the IMO standard format. Vessels not equipped with INMARSAT C must report via alternate satellite equipment to firstname.lastname@example.org or Telex: 48156090. Vessels unable to use satellite equipment should contact the U.S. Coast Guard Communication Area Master Station, Chesapeake, VA via published voice frequencies on 2182 kHz, 4125 kHz, 6215 kHz, 8291 kHz, 12290 kHz, 16420 kHz 24 hours per day or by phone at 1-800-742-8519 ext. 0.
Whale Alerts: Right whale sightings from survey aircraft can be distributed to maritime interests with direct vessel management/navigational responsibilities including your office, dispatch center or vessels. To subscribe to the sighting distribution list, please send an e-mail to email@example.com. with the following information: Your name, your company, contact info (i.e. phone/email), e-mail address for notifications (may be multiple), Port region(s): Jacksonville/Fernandina, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, and/or Wilmington.
Actions to take if you Spot or Strike a Right Whale: If you spot a right whale (alive, dead, injured, entangled, etc.) please report the sighting immediately to 1-877-WHALE-HELP or the U.S. Coast Guard via VHF Channel 16 and notify other vessels in the area. Pleased be advised that it is illegal to approach within 500 yards of a right whale- vessels must steer a course away from and immediately leave the area at a slow, safe speed.
Disclaimer: This guidance is for quick reference only. It does not supersede any information contained within the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Notice to Mariners, U.S. Coast Pilot, etc.