More than 250 recreational fishing and boating industry leaders met in Washington, D.C. last week for the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association’s “American Boating Congress” and the Center for Sportfishing Policy’s “Center Focus on Washington.”
A main focus of the week was NOAA’s proposal to impose 11-mph speed restrictions on boats longer than 35 feet traveling the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to central Florida out as far as 90 miles – up to seven months of the year. While the goal of protecting the North Atlantic right whale population is a noble one, this heavy-handed approach is a real existential threat to recreational fishing and boating on the East Coast.
Since 2008 there have been five documented strikes of North Atlantic right whales by vessels under 65 feet in length. In that same period according to NOAA, 5.1 million recreational fishing trips were taken by vessels 35 – 65 feet in length along the eastern seaboard. If all five strikes were from recreational boats on fishing trips, the chance of a 35 – 65 foot recreational boat striking a right whale is less than one-in-a-million!
NOAA is proposing to severely limit recreational fishing and boating access with dangerously low speed restrictions for less than one-in-a-million chance of a vessel strike. This is not the way America manages her natural resources. Rather than effectively barring safe access to the ocean, there are better more effective ways to protect North Atlantic right whales.
Representatives Bill Posey (Fla.) and Mike Collins (Ga.) took notice of NOAA’s nonsensical proposal and the potential impacts on their constituents and pressed NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad during a House Science subcommittee hearing last week.
NOAA has grossly underestimated the economic impact of this rule at $46 million. But, the proposed speed restrictions would have substantial impacts on every use of the Atlantic Ocean, including ports, pilots, shipping, tourism, commercial fishing – and offshore recreational fishing, threatening to eliminate up to 70,000 recreational fishing trips along the Atlantic seaboard.
The facts speak for themselves: In Atlantic coastal states alone, recreational fishing and boating supports 340,000 American jobs and nearly $84 billion in crucial economic activity.
Balanced regulations and advanced whale-tracking and monitoring technologies that protect North Atlantic right whales and coastal economies are achievable. Solutions created in collaboration with the recreational marine community that are grounded in science, marine industry data and technological innovation are essential for effective marine conservation.
We hope to see a continued spotlight by Congress on NOAA’s substantial expansion of its North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. Funding the right whale monitoring and mitigation program authorized in the FY23 NDAA and direction from Congress to NOAA to engage with marine stakeholders will help to find a balance allowing wise use of America’s public oceans.
– Jeff Angers, President, Center for Sportfishing Policy
The Center for Sportfishing Policy works to maximize opportunity for saltwater recreational anglers by organizing, focusing and engaging recreational fishing stakeholders to speak with one voice to shape federal marine fisheries management policy. For more information on CSP and its partners, visit www.SportfishingPolicy.com.