Jane P. Davenport

In today's blog, we are pleased to share a recent letter to the editor published in the Charleston Post and Courier that explains inaccuracies in an editorial on a proposed vessel speed rule protecting North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes.

A June 6 opinion editorial by Tommy Hancock, which claimed a proposal to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales would cost South Carolinians too much, failed to tell the full story.

Hancock calls the proposed expanded vessel speed rule’s 10-knot speed limit for vessels 65 feet and longer “heavy-handed” and “ill-conceived.” The current rule was carefully written to reflect science and regional seasonal risks, helping to reduce large vessel strikes on right whales with no human safety impacts. The revised rule’s respect for science and regional needs would be no different.

On strikes by smaller vessels, Hancock ignores that vessels between 35 and 65 feet have lethally struck at least seven right whales along the eastern seaboard. If it can happen elsewhere, it can happen in South Carolina. Also omitted is the risk to human life and property. Vessel strikes have sunk boats and endangered boaters — to say nothing of the whales.

Hancock also claims that the proposed rule “grossly ignores the realities of boating safety and practical navigation.”  This is patently untrue. Any vessel can exceed the current rule’s 10-knot limit for navigational safety, provided the deviation is documented. The proposed rule would also let mariners exceed 10 knots in health and safety emergencies. Vessels under 65 feet would get automatic exemptions during high wind warnings.

Conservationists and regulators understand the intricacies on both the human and right whale sides of this rule. Mr. Hancock and South Carolinians should do the same.


Jane Davenport headshot

Jane P. Davenport

Senior Attorney
Jane Davenport’s litigation and legal advocacy work for Defenders focuses on two main areas: first, protecting marine species such as sharks, sea turtles, and marine mammals from direct and incidental take in fisheries; and second, protecting freshwater aquatic species from habitat destruction and pollution from surface coal mining.

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