A North Atlantic right whale breaches the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts, March 28, 2019. Credit: Michael Dwyer | AP

The federal government is creating a new vessel speed restriction zone off Massachusetts to try to protect rare North Atlantic right whales.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the zone has been established south of Martha’s Vineyard to protect a group of three North Atlantic right whales that was seen in the area on Monday. NOAA has made frequent use of the protective zones in New England waters recently as the endangered whales are transiting through.

The whales number a little more than 400 and have experienced high mortality in recent years. NOAA is asking mariners to route around the protected area or travel through it at 10 knots or less. The agency said the whales, which are vulnerable to ship strikes, have been spotted in and around shipping lanes.