Boating and Fishing Groups Disappointed in NOAA Right Whale Regulations

North Atlantic right whale “Snow Cone” (Catalog #3560) spotted south of Nantucket on Sept. 21, 2022, dragging heavy fishing gear and in poor health. CREDIT: New England Aquarium, taken under NOAA permit #25739

HYANNIS – Some boating and fishing advocates are voicing concerns in response to regulations meant to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales moving closer to potential implementation.

If approved, NOAA’s Vessel Strike Reduction rule would require speed restrictions of 10 knots for smaller vessels under 65 feet in length in certain parts of the ocean where endangered whales are spotted. Larger vessels are already subject to restrictions. 

For Cape Cod Bay currently, Massachusetts state law requires most vessels less than 65 feet to travel at 10 knots or less in the Cape Cod Bay Vessel Speed Restriction Area from March 1 to April 30. Speed restrictions may be extended by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) if right whales are spotted outside that window.

Industry members from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Viking Yacht Company say that the potential rule is flawed, not distinguishing between large ocean crossing vessels and small recreational boats and damaging coastal economies.

“We are extremely disappointed and alarmed to see this economically catastrophic and deeply flawed rule proceed to these final stages,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of NMMA.

“The proposed rule is based on incorrect assumptions and questionable data, and fails to distinguish between large, ocean-crossing vessels and small recreational boats, which could not be more different from each other. Most concerning, the proposed rule ignores the advanced marine technologies available now that can better protect the North Atlantic right whale and prevent vessel strikes. Bottom line, the rule’s many blind spots spell dire consequences for boater safety and accessibility, the economic vitality of coastal communities and marine manufacturers, and the livelihoods of countless supporting small businesses, all while undermining years of progress in marine conservation. We strongly urge the Administration to withdraw this rule and consider the technological solutions for which we have been advocating since 2022, which promise protections for the right whale, economy, and boaters.”

Marine animal advocates including the Center for Coastal Studies say that ship strikes are a leading cause of death for the endangered whales that number fewer than 360 individuals. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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