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Friday, June 29, 2007

Shipping Lanes Tweaked To Protect Whales

By Douglas A. Moser , Staff writer
Gloucester Daily Times

The major shipping lane into Boston Harbor will be shifted several nautical miles starting Sunday in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of a vessel striking a whale - the scenario that led to two whales washing up dead on Cape Ann shores this year.

Researchers believe the shipping lane, which brings large commercial vessel traffic into Boston Harbor through the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, traverses an area with a lot of whale activity. This move will add 3.75 miles to the overall distance of the shipping lane and 10 to 22 minutes to overall travel time one way, according to the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It may not be that much of a shift spatially, but it's a huge shift ecologically," said Mason Weinrich, executive director of the Whale Center of New England on Harbor Loop in Gloucester.

Weinrich said data, which covers sightings over the last 25 years, showed the shipping lane crossed waters frequently used by whales. The lane shifted to an area in the sanctuary with a different seabed, he said, that whales tend to avoid.

The move does not eliminate the risk of vessel strikes, Weinrich said, but "it helps in a big way."
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