The NMMA and recreational boating and fishing industry leaders were in Washington, D.C. last week to express concerns over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s proposed expansion of its North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule.
The proposed expansion would implement a 10 knot (11 mph) speed limit on boats 35 feet and greater across a vast area of the Atlantic coast. Under the proposed expansion, the speed limit would extend from Massachusetts to central Florida for 7 months out of the year. The proposed rule poses significant safety and economic concerns to America’s recreational boating and fishing community.
NOAA’s proposed vessel speed restrictions would have a severe economic consequences, particularly for coastal communities. The U.S. recreational boating industry has an annual economic impact of $230 billion, supporting more than 36,000 businesses, most of which are small businesses, and generates more over 812,000 American jobs.
This propsed rule expansion also poses risks to boater safety. Many smaller boats are not designed to operate on the open ocean at speeds 10 knots or slower, in the event of bad weather, boats of this size could swamp or capsize.
Representatives Buddy Carter (R-GA-01) and Mary Peltola (D-AK) recently introduced legislation that would halt NOAA’s proposed speed limits until technological solutions, including real-time location monitoring, can be adopted.
Similar concerns were also presented at a recent congressional hearing. While testifying at a House Water, Wildlife and Fisheries subcommittee hearing on NOAA’s proposal, NMMA President Frank Hugelmeyer encouraged lawmakers to work with the industry to find a better solution.
“The marine industry can be passionate about whale protection and vehemently against this ill-conceived and over-reaching regulation,” said Hugelmeyer. “It is a false choice to state that Americans must choose between saving whales and allowing public access that provides economic security for small businesses. We can do both.”