NOAA 2007-R119
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Rule effective annually from November 15 – April 15

NOAA Fisheries Service finalized a rule implementing permanent annual restrictions on gillnet fishing in the Southeast U.S. during right whale calving season (Nov. 15 – April 15). The rule was published in the Federal Register today (72 FR 34632) and regulations take effect in 30 days on July 25, 2007.

The waters off the Southeast U.S. are the only known calving area for North Atlantic right whales. This area is predominantly used by reproducing females and their calves from November to April each year. Entanglement in fixed fishing gear is one of the greatest threats to this species. There may be as few as 300 North Atlantic right whales left.

"Calving right whales represent the future of this endangered species," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries Service. "We are implementing this rule to protect females and their calves while they are in this critical area."

The final rule includes the following actions:

  • Expands the Southeast U.S. Restricted Area to include waters within 35 nautical miles of the South Carolina coast (south of the Little River Inlet at the South Carolina/North Carolina border).
  • Divides the Southeast U.S. Restricted Area at 29°00’ N latitude into two areas – Southeast U.S. Restricted Areas North and South.
  • Restricts gillnetting within the Southeast U.S Restricted Area during the right whale calving season.

Specifically, the rule prohibits gillnet fishing and possession in the Southeast U.S. Restricted Area North each year from Nov. 15 – April 15, with an exemption for transiting through this area if gear is stowed in accordance with the rule. Gillnet fishing is prohibited annually in the Southeast U.S. Restricted Area South from Dec. 1 – March 31, with limited exemptions for gillnet fishing for sharks and Spanish mackerel. The final rule is based on the proposed rule and public comments received on the proposed rule.

During the 2006-2007 calving season, 20 births and 2 calf mortalities were recorded. North Atlantic right whales are listed as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. NOAA Fisheries Service is directed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to reduce incidental serious injury and mortality of marine mammal stocks in commercial fishing operations.

NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources and their habitats through scientific research, management, and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

In 2007 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On The Web:

Map of Southeast U.S. Restricted Area:

Federal Register Notice
Final Rule: 72 FR 34632

General Right Whale Facts: