In the first change of U.S. shipping lanes to protect an endangered species, ships steaming in and out of the Port of Boston will have to change course starting this weekend to avoid whales.
Starting on Sunday, large vessels will travel roughly four miles north of their old path in new lanes, rerouted to avoid parts of the only whale-feeding sanctuary in the U.S., the Coast Guard and scientists said.
Electronic maps have been recalculated, navigational charts reprinted and mariners warned. Coast Guard cutters are patrolling the area to mark the new lanes with buoys in time for Sunday's shift, which adds 10 to 20 minutes of sailing.
"This is a dramatic step based on good science that makes the whales' home safer for them," said Amy Knowlton, a research scientist at the New England Aquarium told Reuters.
Boston receives at least three cargo ships carrying containers, oil or liquefied natural gas each day, the Coast Guard said.
Ships currently cross the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where humpback, minke, finback and North Atlantic right whales live from March to November.
Commercial ships kill as many as three whales a year in the 842-square-mile sanctuary that stretches from Cape Cod to Cape Ann, turning so-called vessel strikes into the top killer for whales, according to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, part of the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Two whales have been hit in the last six weeks.