Duck and Swimmer.

It is estimated that the North Atlantic shipping speed reductions proposed by US government scientists to protect right whales could cost over a million dollars.  While this is a hefty chunk of change, it is a relatively small percentage of the overall North Atlantic shipping industry’s profits (about $340 billion).  Still, the evidence that a reduction in speed will reduce whale deaths and increase the right whale population is strong.  So the only real question before the Office of Management and Budget should be whether this chunk will negatively impact shipping more than it will positively impact the most endangered of all whale species.

It’s a complex question, which may be why the proposal has languished with the OMB for so long.  Since the shipping industry is wide and diverse, are there companies that are going to be so negatively impacted as to go under due to this new speed rule?  Will shippers in a local area be unable to compete, due to a lower speed rule in places where more widespread shippers can make up the cost easily?  How will transatlantic shipping be affected, and will we be able to continue to compete in the international shipping market?

However, despite the plausible validity of checking all sides of the story before issuing a rule, shipper’s claims that less whales would be injured if shipping boats go faster seems to treat whales like randomly floating masses.  True, a faster boat will spend less time in a certain area of the water, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate less collisions.  Whales are perceptive.  When they see a giant thing bearing down on them slowly from the surface, they are not going to bonk into it headfirst, curious though they may be.  And any child can tell you it’s easier to doge a ball that’s thrown gently than one speeding with force.

Hopefully this is a conclusion the OMB will be able to realize soon.


  1. Robert Lackey said,

    June 5, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    This is just another example of our current administration’s disconnect and distain for the world around us. Bush and Cheney have proven themselves to NOT be LEADERS unless it puts money into their pockets. They have twisted or largely ignored science and the people who have put their lives into studying and understanding the things they are incapable of grasping. Global warming, oil dependancies (as opposed to alternate energies), endangered species, the collapse of important fisheries, industrial pollution, over population, over exploitation and waste of of natural resources,etc. If we don’t take care of the world we live on, we will be the next endangered species. Given we are the most self serving and destructive of all the species living on the planet, the rest would breathe a major sigh of relief at our passing….. We could put all of these clowns in a boat they have to paddle themselves and tell the shippers they can go as fast as they want! We could provide them a tax incentive if they hit the “special boat”…

  2. Steve said,

    June 5, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Based on the stats that 2 whales die a year because of this, thats over 55million a whale. Thats a very expensive animal.

  3. Craig Nazor said,

    June 5, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    A recent CNN story about the OMB’s lack of action mentioned “red tape” as the reason for a delay in the decision to lower ship speeds. This is not accurate. The Bush administration is not going to lower ship speeds unless forced, just like they did not list any more endangered species until forced. This is based on the “principle”, which seems to be held by many Republicans, that humans are more important than all other creatures on earth, and that our comfort and our greed are good enough reasons for any species to become extinct. This is one of the most egotistical and ignorant concepts in modern politics. It is egotistical because, although I do not believe most people feel this way, and most people will not benefit from the extinctions, this government is going to allow these species to become extinct anyway. This is an irreversable outcome: we are all required to exist in the impoverished ecosystems. The concept is ignorant because it ignores the science that tells us that all creatures will eventually suffer greatly from the mass extinctions the world is currently facing due largely to human activity. It could be argued that these actions are a violation of the oath of office, where our leaders vow to “uphold the law” – except the ones that they don’t follow their “principles”! I hope that history will not forget this black stain on the record of President Bush and Vice-president Cheney, one of many that will be their legacy, a legacy one hopes will be as irreversable as the extinctions for which they will be responsible.

  4. sedgehammer said,

    June 5, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Robert – Thanks for your comments. While I can certainly understand your frustrations with our current political leadership, I’m not sure they can be blamed completely for this situation. The OMB does have a large contingent of career staff as well as political appointees. Granted, these staff may be why the rule has not been rejected outright, but I also feel like they have a responsibility to make effective decisions despite politics.

    Steve – Yes, $55 million is quite a bit to spend on an animal. But even from a strictly economic standpoint, scarcity drives up price. $55 million might be the ‘correct’ price tag for preserving and maintaining an animal there are only 300 of, whereas it might not be the ‘correct’ value for, say, a white-tailed deer.

  5. Cardinal said,

    June 5, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    If the shipping industry opposes a speed limit…fine. Just impose a $500 million dollar fine on anyone who kills a Right Whale. I’m pretty sure they will slow down….

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