VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Oceana released a new analysis Thursday saying that hundreds of boats were seen in the Virginia Beach area in the weeks leading up to the death of the North Atlantic Right Whale.

The endangered whale washed up on the beach on Feb. 12 between Lesner Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Following a necropsy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA) revealed the cause of the death was classified as blunt-force trauma injuries consistent with those of a boat strike.

Oceana used its Ship Speed Watcher, which monitors ship speeds in slow zones, to document boat speeds between Feb. 1 to Feb. 11. The organization was able to determine the following:

  • More than 200 boats larger than 65 feet long traveled through slow zones at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay
  • Nearly seven out of 10 boats (158 boats) traveled above the speed limit of 11.5 MPH through either mandatory or voluntary slow zones
  • One boat traveled as fast as 26.7 MPH (more than double the speed limit) within the mandatory slow zone
  • Around half of the boats were found speeding in the mandatory slow zone
  • In the days immediately proceeding the discovery of the dead whale, more than 75% of boats did not comply with the mandatory or voluntary speed limits between Feb. 8 and Feb. 11

Oceana says vessel strikes are one of the biggest threats to these endangered whales, and the NOAA has proposed new vessel speed regulations to help protect the North Atlantic Right whales. The regulations are currently under review and the final safeguards are expected later this year.

To read the full report from Oceana, click here.