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ICYMI – Congress makes note of NOAA’s dangerous and misguided vessel speed restrictions for recreational boats on the Atlantic Coast

The recreational marine industry anticipates a strong boating season as Americans flock to the water this summer to enjoy time spent on our nation’s waterways. Communities and businesses along our coastlines come alive during the summer. It’s simple – the $230 billion recreational boating and fishing industry means business. 

As summer kicks off, lawmakers are making note of an ill-informed vessel speed restriction along the eastern seaboard, from central Florida up to Massachusetts. This week, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries held an oversight hearing, “Examining the impacts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s proposed changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule,” welcoming impacted stakeholders from the recreational boating and fishing industry to testify on the devastating impacts NOAA’s proposed vessel speed restrictions would have on businesses, jobs, and coastal recreation.

The proposed speed limit would require all offshore boats longer than 35 feet operating in designated zones between Massachusetts and central Florida to restrict their speed to 10 knots (11.5 mph) or slower for several months out of the year. 

This rule does little to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale and would undoubtedly decimate tens of thousands of businesses in coastal communities up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

We applaud the subcommittee for holding a hearing on this important matter and for pulling the curtain back on the many glaring inaccuracies and false assumptions NOAA made when developing its proposed rule changes.

Representative Buddy Carter (GA-01), though not a sitting member of the committee, was able to attend the hearing and share remarks surrounding the rule. As a representative of much of Georgia’s coastline, Carter stressed the importance of “smart policies” that will not destroy the economy. He emphasized there is an important agreement here – no one on either side wants to see the whales go extinct, or for the U.S. economy to be irreparably damaged.

The recreational boating industry is encouraged to see members press NOAA to work alongside Congress and impacted stakeholders to determine a balanced, data-driven, and innovative approach that protects the North Atlantic right whale, coastal communities, coastal recreation, and businesses and jobs alike. 

It is a false choice to state that Americans must choose between saving whales and allowing public access that provides economic security for small businesses and families,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), in his testimony. “We can do both.”

Recreational boating and fishing stakeholders are encouraged to keep the momentum going and to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill, in district offices, and at the local level by contacting lawmakers and staff to discuss the impacts of NOAA’s proposed rule, as well as taking action on the Coastal Recreation platform.