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East Coast ships slow down for whales

Dec. 9, 2008 at 12:24 PM   |   Comments

NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. officials say, effective Tuesday, merchant ships off Virginia must slow down in order to cut down on collisions with migrating whales.

The order requires ships more than 65 feet in length to limit their speed to 10 knots when they are within 20 miles of Hampton Roads and other mid-Atlantic ports.

The order exempts U.S. Navy and law-enforcement vessels and is in effect Nov. 1-April 30 when right whales pass through on their annual migration from the North Atlantic to breeding grounds off Florida and then return in the spring.

"They are slow-moving and they're highly vulnerable to ship collisions, Their migration route crosses major East Coast shipping lanes," Connie Barclay, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va.

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