White House delay on ship speed limit endangers whales

The North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered mammals, is in danger of extinction because the Bush administration has, so far, refused to impose measures to protect the creatures from being hit by ships near busy US ports.

Plans for a speed limit on shipping during the whales' migration season are bogged down in bureaucracy, which environmentalists say Vice-President Dick Cheney's office is orchestrating.

For more than a year, the White House has refused to implement the proposed 10-knot (11.5mph) speed limit, which scientists say will help prevent ships from hitting the slow-moving whales as they migrate up the East coast of America. "The Bush administration is blocking legislation, delaying regulations and disabling enforcement efforts to protect the right whale," said Vicki Cornish, of the wildlife group Ocean Conservancy.

Only 350 or so right whales remain in existence. The North Atlantic species, which grows to more than 60ft long, is black with distinctive white markings on its back. It was hunted to the brink of extinction for its oil and baleen in the 19th-century whaling boom. Hunting was finally banned in 1935, when only 400 or so whales remained. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration believes the species could be pushed to extinction by the death of a single pregnant female.

Between 2002 and 2006, 17 right whales – six of them adult females – were hit by ships and died. Since then, several calves have been killed by ships or becoming entangled in fishing gear.

Most of the females migrate along the Atlantic coast, from the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia to Cape Cod and nursing grounds off Florida. Mothers do not feed while calving but must produce thousands of gallons of milk to feed their calves. The exhausted slow-moving whales are especially vulnerable on their return north.

To prevent more right whale deaths, the US Fisheries Service wants to impose speed limits on ships within 30 miles of various ports. Under US law, the government should by now have implemented new regulations forcing ships to slow to less than 10 knots when migrating whales are spotted at certain times of the year.

But pressure from shipping companies and the state of Georgia, which argues that the measure would cause economic hardship, have led the Bush administration to try to run down the clock on the new regulations. The US Navy also objects to the speed limit and even whale-watching companies oppose it, saying it would prevent them from getting swiftly offshore to where whales are gathered.

Pleasure boat owners also object because an 800-berth marina is being built near one of the whales' main calving areas off Georgia.

The most vocal objections have come from the World Shipping Council, made up mostly of European and Asian shipping lines. It claims there is insufficient proof that reducing a ship's speed will prevent it from hitting a whale. The Georgia Ports Authority said it was unfair to blame shipping for whale deaths when "at best, it may be responsible for less than [half] of collisions".

But Ms Cornish argued: "What they are saying is, the faster the ships go, the sooner they are in and out of the way. So why not have speeding cars in front of a school, so they are in and out of the way before they hit a child?"

The White House is supposed to review proposed law changes within 90 days but, in the case of the whale "ship strike" rule, it has taken more than a year to act. A spokeswoman could not explain the delay, other than to say that it was a case of "due diligence".

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam