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NOAA’s Ship Strike Reduction Strategy

The Ship Strike Reduction Strategy is an Atlantic coast initiative led by NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Protected Resources. The strategy consists of both regulatory and non-regulatory components, including operational measures for vessels, education and outreach programs, technological research, and international conservation agreements.

Routing Measures

Recommended Routes

In November 2006, NOAA established a set of recommended vessel routes in Cape Cod Bay and in the approaches to ports in Florida and Georgia to reduce the likelihood of ship collisions with right whales in key right whale habitats. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) conducted a Port Access Routes Study (PARS) to determine the best configuration of routes to protect right whales while allowing for safe use of the waterways. The routes are now charted on all NOAA paper and electronic charts.

Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) Shift

In December 2006, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved a United States proposal to shift the east-west leg of the Boston TSS approximately 12 degrees to the north in order to direct shipping traffic through an area with a substantially lower density of right and other whales. In addition, the US proposed to narrow the lanes from 1.5 miles down to 1.0 miles wide in order to further reduce the overlap between ships and whales. These proposals were evaluated by the USCG and the Maritime Safety Committee of the IMO for safety and navigational effects. The shift results in only a 10-22 minute increase in transit time, while providing up to 58% reduction in collision risk to right whales and 81% reduction in risk to other large baleen whales.

The modifications to the Boston TSS are effective as of July 1, 2007. NOAA Print-on-Demand Charts, Raster Navigational Charts, lithographic and electronic charts have all been updated to reflect the change.

To view the changes and obtain updated charts, please visit

Image courtesy of NOAA/Stellwagen Bank NMS and NMFS: Wiley, Thompson & Merrick

Whale Avoidance Measures

Right Whale Sighting and Tracking Data

Northeast Implementation Team (NEIT) for the Recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale

In developing and implementing recovery plans for endangered species, section 4(f)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) allows for appropriate state, public and private agencies, institutions, and other qualified persons to assist in the development and implementation of a recovery plan.  The appointed recovery teams are not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), and therefore have no legal authority and are advisory in nature, serving at the request of NOAA Fisheries Service. 

The NEIT was initially established in 1994 as the Northeast Large Whale Recovery Plan Implementation Team to help facilitate the implementation of recovery plan tasks identified in the North Atlantic right, humpback, fin, sei and blue whale recovery plans. Because vessel collisions have been identified as one of two primary human-caused sources of injury and mortality to the critically endangered right whale, the implementation team was restructured in May 2004 to focus exclusively on North Atlantic right whale ship strike reduction and support of the National NOAA Ship Strike Reduction Strategy Working Group. 

For more information on the Ship Strike Reduction Program, please contact
Peter Kelliher at 978-282-8474 or