Committee Investigates Negative Impacts of Proposed Speed Reduction Rule
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 6, 2023 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)
Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries held an oversight hearing on the impacts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) proposed changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) released the following statement in response:
“Unfortunately, NOAA is promulgating policies that do very little for the Right Whale, but which could be devastating to all types of boating and shipping activity on the east coast. NOAA’s proposed rule, that vessels over 35 feet in length may travel at a maximum speed of 10 knots in seasonal management areas, could be extremely dangerous for small recreational boats. Moreover, NOAA’s proposed “go-slow zones” would reach up to 90 miles from shore – including thousands of square miles of ocean where the North Atlantic Right Whales have not been observed in decades. These proposed changes reduce safe operation of vessels in Federal Navigation Channels, and this rule will make boating and fishing trips in the Atlantic unsafe and nearly impossible. NOAA can and must do better than this.”
Right whales migrate seasonally along the East Coast, spending summer and fall in the waters off New England and Canada. During winter months, right whales migrate to the southeastern United States for calving. Right whales have been considered endangered in the U.S. since 1970, even before the enactment of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
To address vessel strikes, NOAA proposed speed restrictions in 2008 for vessels over 65 feet in length when going through seasonal management areas. This initially included exemptions for mariner safety and military concerns.
On August 1, 2022, NOAA published the proposed rule amending the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. The proposed rule extends the applicability of the speed restriction rule to include boats measuring 35 feet and longer, expands the seasonal management areas and changes the existing safety exemptions. More than 63,000 registered recreational saltwater vessels measuring over 35 feet exist in states across the proposed impact area. Considering those numbers, stakeholders estimate that the economic impact of canceling boating and fishing trips as a result of the proposed rule could jeopardize 340,000 American jobs and nearly $84 billion in economic contributions.
Today's hearing was a chance for committee members to further investigate the effects of the proposed rule and hear from experts on what it would mean if enacted.To learn more, click here.
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