Commentary: Put right whales' safety over boat speed

This editorial appeared in The Rock Hill Herald.

We hope state lawmakers will abandon a ploy to get around federal speed limits for large boats enacted to help save the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Only 300 to 400 right whales remain on the planet. The giant creatures, weighing up to 80 tons, migrate from Florida to Maine along the coast in winter and back south again in the spring.

Nearly 100 were spotted from planes off the South Carolina coast this year, including 14 mothers and calves. The death of even one female of calf-bearing age undermines the ability of the species to survive.

To help protect the whales, a federal regulation developed under the Endangered Species Act sets a new speed limit of 10 knots per hour – 11.5 mph – for boats 65 feet or longer. The speed limit must be observed within 20 nautical mils of the coast from Savannah, Ga., to Rhode Island.

South Carolina lawmakers say the regulation unfairly targets the Charleston port because its 19 pilots use two 75-foot boats – longer than at other ports – as they steer big cargo ships to and from the docks. They say Charleston harbor pilots have to slow down while those from North Carolina or Georgia don't.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Rock Hill Herald.

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