A rushed proposed rule to implement 10-knot speed restrictions for boats 35 feet and larger from Massachusetts to Florida could devastate the entire marine industry and cripple America’s outdoor economy.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency within NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), is proposing amendments to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule to reduce the likelihood of vessel strikes. The federal rule would broaden the current 10-knot speed limit to include boats 35 feet and larger (down from 65 feet); expand the zones from discrete calving areas to virtually the entire East Coast as far out as 100 nautical miles; and extend the go-slow mandate for up to seven months a year. Visit www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2022-0022/document to submit a comment.
“The proposed rule, as written, would be the most consequential maritime regulation that we have ever seen imposed on the recreational boating and fishing sector,” says John DePersenaire, RFA board member and Director of Government Affairs and Sustainability for Viking Yachts. “It will affect not only boat owners but marinas, tackle shops, charter boat operators – basically all maritime-related businesses on the Atlantic Coast.”
Adds RFA board member and Viking President and CEO Pat Healey: “This would be a devastating regulatory mandate. Right whale vessel strikes have just not been an issue for our industry. “In our 58-year history, with more than 5,000 boats delivered, we have never had a report of our boats having an encounter with a right whale,” says Healey “And we would know because it would cause significant damage that would be repairable only by us. This is a classic example of government overreach.”
The facts do not support the sweeping changes being proposed by NOAA. Since 1998 – 24 years – there have been 24 known right whale vessel strikes across 10 states. Of those, eight were attributed to boats from 35 to 65 feet.