NOAA Vessel Speed Regulations Cast Too Wide a Net

Our coastal city is known for its rich history, architecture, and its Port. The port is a critical access point for national commerce and serves as a vital link to international markets. With more than 2.9 million imports and exports in 2022 alone, the Port of Savannah is the fourth busiest seaport in the country. 

We are an important part of Georgia’s Atlantic shore is lined with coastal communities, recreational and commercial boaters and anglers, and diverse marine ecosystems. Georgia also shares its coastal waters with its state marine mammal, the North Atlantic right whale. To protect these fantastic creatures, in 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enacted a vessel speed regulation in effort to protect the right whale from vessel strikes. Under the rule, vessels 65 feet or greater cannot travel above 10 knots in certain locations, or “Seasonal Management Areas” (SMAs), along the East Coast during designated times of the year.

Recently, NOAA proposed a vast expansion of its vessel strike rule that will have broad, unintended consequences for coastal Georgia. The proposed expansion would limit all boats 35 feet and larger from traveling faster than 10 knots within speed zones extending from Massachusetts to central Florida. Unlike the 2008 rule applying to large commercial vessels, the proposed rule would impact recreational boats, including charter fishing boats. For states like ours where recreational boating and fishing brings a $7.8 billion annual economic boost and supports more than 27,000 jobs, these proposed rule changes will have major consequences for many Georgians’ businesses, jobs, and livelihoods. 

Read More