BOSTON (AP) — Rare whales have been detected east of Boston, prompting the federal government to take steps to try to protect the animals.

The whales are North Atlantic right whales, which number only about 360 in the world. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected the presence of the whales 35 nautical miles east of Boston on Jan. 25.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone or “slow zone” in the area. The agency is asking mariners to go around the area or travel through it at 10 knots or less.

The whales are vulnerable to collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear. NOAA said the Boston Slow Zone is in effect until Feb. 9.

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