A pod of right whales was seen off the Island’s southwest coast Thursday, prompting federal regulators to ask boaters to slow down.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Friday enacted a slow zone through July 12 to protect the critically endangered species. The agency is requesting mariners avoid the area altogether or travel at 10-knots or less.

Approaching a right whale closer than 500 yards is a violation of federal and state law. 

The North Atlantic right whale is nearing extinction and have been federally classified as endangered since 1970. NOAA reports that fewer than 360 individuals remain, 70 of which are reproductively active females. 

The species is particularly vulnerable to vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements.