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Officials announce new voluntary ‘slow zone’ southeast of Nantucket to protect rare whale species

This right whale was seen swimming with her calf off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard back in March.
This right whale was seen swimming with her calf off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard back in March.New England Aquarium

Federal officials announced a new voluntary “slow zone” southeast of Nantucket to protect a rare species of whale.

Mariners are being asked to travel at 10 knots or less, or avoid the area entirely, out of respect for North Atlantic right whales that have been detected there.

Scientists estimate that there are only 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and they’re protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

As these endangered whales move along the Atlantic coast, NOAA officials are asking boaters and fishermen to give them plenty of room.

“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,” NOAA Fisheries officials said in a statement. “Commercial fishermen should use vertical lines with required markings, weak links, and breaking strengths.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the new “slow zone” southeast of Nantucket will be in effect until Aug. 16.



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.