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NOAA to boaters: Watch out for right whales

Federal fisheries regulators are asking mariners to either go slow or find a route around an area south of Nantucket where groups of right whales have recently been spotted as the endangered mammals migrate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it established a “dynamic management area” south of Nantucket where “an aggregation of right whales” was seen on Monday. There are estimated to be fewer than 400 right whales remaining on Earth. Boaters are encouraged to slow their vessels to 10 knots or less or to avoid the area altogether.

“North Atlantic right whales are on the move along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. NOAA is cautioning boaters and fishermen to give these endangered whales plenty of room,” NOAA said in its alert. “We are also asking all fishermen to be vigilant when maneuvering to avoid accidental collisions with whales and remove unused gear from the ocean to help avoid entanglements. Commercial fishermen should use vertical lines with required markings, weak links, and breaking strengths.”

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Right whales got their name, NOAA said, “from being the ‘right’ whales to hunt because they floated when they were killed.” Nantucket and New Bedford thrived as whaling ports in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the expeditions that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution severely depleted whale populations, and right whales “have never recovered to pre-whaling numbers,” NOAA said. Northern right whales have been listed as endangered since 1970.