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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 7, 1998


Today's vote by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to strengthen protections for the northern right whale is a vital step to ensure the survival of these majestic but endangered creatures.

Like many other marine mammals, the northern right whale once was hunted nearly to extinction. The 300 or so that survive spend much of the year in waters off Cape Cod and off the Georgia and Florida coasts. Biologists believe the greatest human threat they face today is collisions with large ships.

In April, I instructed our representatives to the IMO to seek strong measures to address this threat. Under our proposal, approved unanimously today by the IMO, commercial ships entering the whale's calving and feeding grounds will be required to report by radio to the U.S. Coast Guard, which will relay back the latest information on the whales' locations and advice on avoiding collisions.

Today's action by the IMO demonstrates once again that through international cooperation we can restore and protect our precious oceans and the magnificent diversity of life they sustain.