BOSTON – The busy shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor will be narrowed and shifted northward today in a bid to lower the risk of rare right whales being killed by ships.
It’s the first time in U.S. history shipping lanes have been changed to protect wildlife.
Each year, ships from around the world, carrying everything from cars to natural gas, make about 3,500 trips through the designated lanes stretching from southeast of Cape Cod into the port of Boston.
Today, the final stretch of that corridor will be given a slight northeast rotation. Researchers say that will take ships outside an area with a high concentration of North Atlantic right whales and reduces the ship strike risk by more than 50 percent.
With the entire North Atlantic right whale population estimated at just 350, that lower risk is significant, said Richard Merrick, a federal researcher who helped devise the change.
“Every animal that dies has the potential for a major effect on the population. So we save one animal in that area, that’s a big deal,” said Merrick, who works for the National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Species Branch.