Economic Impact Assessment of Vessel Diversions for Protection of Right Whales (2005–2008)

On December 9, 2008, a regulation to reduce the likelihood of ship strikes against migrating right whales in the North Atlantic went into effect. The regulation limits the speed of large ships within 20 miles of the shore to 10 knots. Nathan Associates conducted the economic analysis necessary for passage of the regulation. We estimated that the total impact of limiting vessels to 10 knots or less to be $137 million: $70 million incurred directly by shipping vessels and $17 million by other vessels, such as passenger ferries, commercial fishing vessels, and whale watching vessels. The estimated indirect economic impact due to port diversions is $49.7 million.

In June 2005 the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it was preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for an “economically significant” strategy to reduce ship strikes against right whales. Nathan Associates conducted the economic analysis for the EIS, updating and deepening our first analysis conducted in 2004/05. We evaluated the economic impact of alternatives for reducing whale mortality due to ship strikes on the basis of measures contained in each element of the strategy. Operational measures include speed restrictions for specific U.S. East Coast port areas during particularly sensitive periods when whales are usually present.

Under the strategy, vessels 20–30 nautical miles from the shoreline would be restricted to 10–14 knots. During periods outside of the seasonal speed restrictions, all areas along the Atlantic seaboard in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone would be subject to dynamic management area measures if certain concentrations of right whales were sighted. The strategy also allows for establishment of routes that are most likely to reduce the risk of collision between vessels and whales. Proposed provisions would apply to nonsovereign vessels 65 feet and longer.

Our detailed report is available at the NOAA website: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike/

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