Open Public Comments Needed on Proposed NOAA Right Whale Vessel Speed Regulations
In 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enacted a regulation with the goal of reducing the risk of lethal vessel collisions with right whales along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The regulation required vessels 65' and over to not exceed 10 knots within Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs) along the U.S. East Coast, from Massachusetts to Florida during specific months established by right whale movements.
Read the regulation here.
Most recently, August of 2022, NOAA proposed a revision to the regulation, expanding the mandatory speed restrictions by lowering the size of the vessels from 65 feet to 35 feet and larger, and increasing the SMAs as well as the length of the seasonal restrictions – up to 7 months in some areas. You can read the proposed regulation here and see the map below.
Conservation organizations such as The International Game Fish Association, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsman Association, Recreational Fishing Association, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and others that represent the boating and fishing community, recognize protecting the North Atlantic right whale is important. However, due to the large implications the new rule will have on recreational boaters and anglers, they requested NOAA give ample time for this audience to provide public comment. As a result, the public comment period has been extended until October 31st.
It is the desire of these organizations to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service to find other ways to successfully avoid right whales without imposing additional restrictions on recreation fishing and boating. To accomplish that they are asking for more deliberation and analysis to be done in an effort to establish less restrictive measures.
If you would like to be heard on this issue, click here to submit a public comment.