right whales

New Public Tool Aims to Help Prevent Right Whale Deaths

NBC Universal, Inc.

The North Atlantic right whale is just one step away from extinction, with only around 400 left in existence.

With the help of new online tool that just launched, a group of conservationists is hoping to decrease right whale deaths.

Fast-moving ships and slow-moving whales have proven to be a deadly combination. In fact, collisions with fishing and cargo ships are one of the leading causes of right whale deaths, according to experts.

"Getting hit by a ship is -- they have ribs crushed, their skulls are broken, I mean not only are we losing them, we're losing them in horrible ways," said Sharon Young, a senior strategist for Marine Issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

So Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization, has created Ship Speed Watch, an innovative website that went live to the public on Tuesday.

The tool uses self-reported data from vessel sensors to show ships' speeds and locations in near real-time.

"Using this tool we can actually see if vessels are abiding by the speed limit that has been set in these areas," said Whitney Webber, campaign director of Oceana.

A recent study done by Oceana off of Nantucket found that many vessels are not abiding by the speed limit because those limits are currently voluntary.

"We're really going to be promoting expanding and enforcing mandatory speed restrictions throughout the U.S. and Canada," Webber said.

According to Oceana, studies have found that slowing ship speeds to less than 10 knots in areas where right whales are known to be swimming can reduce death by collisions by 86%.

"We're really hoping that the public uses it and uses it to weigh in with their government officials to get them to mandate these speed restrictions," said Webber.

For more information on how you can help and to check out Ship Speed Watch, click here.

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