Change in federal whale protections could have dire effects on fishing industry

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Fishermen across the state are speaking out against a potential change in regulations tied to protections for an endangered species of whale.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the federal agency that monitors weather conditions and marine fisheries, put in place speed limits in certain areas in the Atlantic. The goal is to avoid boater collisions with the North Atlantic right whale, a species at high risk of extinction.

Right now, boats longer than 64 feet must proceed at a speed of 10 knots in seasonal speed zones enforced from Nov. 1 to April 30 in North Carolina. A decision is incoming on whether the speed limits will be applicable to smaller boats as well — a rule change that could impact charter and commercial fishing. 

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