America’s recreational anglers applaud the leadership of Rep. Mary Peltola. Last month, the first-term Member from Alaska was joined by fellow Democratic members Reps. Brendan Boyle (Penn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Vicente Gonzalez (Texas) penning a strong letter opposing NOAA’s proposed vessel speed restriction (VSR) rule.
The proposed rule is advertised to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale (NARW) by expanding speed restrictions for vessels 35 feet and larger (down from 65 feet); broadening go-slow zones along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and extending these speed restrictions for up to seven months. But this rule would have far-reaching consequences, significantly impacting maritime safety, coastal communities and America’s Outdoor Recreation Economy.
We can all agree that conserving the NARW is essential, but NOAA developed this proposed rule in a vacuum, and it shows. The flawed rule will do untold damage to coastal economies…risk human life…and do little if anything for right whales.
The real answer to the challenges facing right whales is technology, and NOAA has failed to prioritize that solution. Congresswoman Peltola and her colleagues emphasize the need for technological solutions and collaboration with industry experts to achieve conservation goals without compromising public access:
“… NOAA Fisheries can and should set aside the flawed proposed rule and instead carry out the full and vigorous exploration of technological solutions that can achieve the conservation goals while still allowing reasonable access to public resources. Working collaboratively with subject matter experts who specialize in whale monitoring and detection, as well as communications systems that can get information to vessel operators where and when they need it most must remain the top priority for NOAA Fisheries. Not all of us represent Districts sitting on the East Coast, but we share concerns regarding the economic ripple effects of these restrictions and the implications for how NOAA Fisheries would conduct marine mammal protection management elsewhere in the United States.”
We applaud the leadership of Representatives Peltola, Boyle, Cuellar and Gonzalez for their commitment to sound conservation measures while preserving public access. We urge Congress to continue spotlighting NOAA’s proposed expansion of the NARW VSR Rule, and we seek Congress’ direction for NOAA to meaningfully engage with marine stakeholders.
NOAA Fisheries should set aside the flawed proposed rule and instead focus on technological solutions and engagement with key stakeholders to pave the way for a more effective and balanced course of action.
A personal note. Conservation lost a giant last week. I lost a dear friend. Dr. Bob Shipp was one of the finest men I have ever known and a real-life hero in the marine sciences. He spoke truth to power and won many a battle for science — and common sense. Just last month he penned an op-ed highlighting NOAA’s continuing failures getting the science right. I commend it to you at this link.