Yachts traveling along the U.S. Atlantic coast are required by law to steer clear of North Atlantic right whales as they migrate from Canada and New England toward breeding grounds in the waters of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida.
Scientists estimate there are fewer than 455 of the right whales remaining and they are the rarest of all large whale species.
The endangered whales’ calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April and speed restrictions are in place in various areas along the mid-Atlantic. Boats 65 feet long and greater are required to slow to 10 knots or less in Seasonal Management Areas along the U.S. Eastern seaboard. U.S. Federal law prohibits approaching or remaining within 500 yards of right whales, either by watercraft or by aircraft.
For more information on seasonal ship speed restrictions:
Broadcast to Mariners: Nov. 15 – Apr. 15 USCG announcement on VHF 16 to tune to VHF 22A for recorded right whale message every 2 hours
National Weather Service National Weather Radio: hourly message
Electronic charts: Seasonal Management Areas, as well as right whale critical habitat, recommended routes, and Mandatory Ship Reporting System (WHALESSOUTH) areas