Recently proposed changes by the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) may severely upend your boating plans.
If passed, the new law would limit the speed of all boats and yachts over 35-feet to under 10 knots in designated areas of the ocean (as far out as 90 miles) during specific times of the year. The agency has claimed that they have data that suggests that vessels in this range have been responsible for unintentional strikes of North Atlantic Right Whales. The proposal also aims to expand the use of "on-demand" or "ropeless" fishing gear such as turtle excluder devices and deflector dredges in commercial fisheries.
"Everyone in the boating industry is concerned about the proposed speed rule by the NOAA," said Captain Jeff Palmer, President of United Yacht Sales. "While we are all concerned about the health of our marine life and its ecosystem, these rules were rushed and the impact on our industry would be devastating. Whether you are traveling south for the winter in a motor yacht or heading to the canyons in your sportfishing boat, you can't even get your boat to plane at 10 knots. The consequences to our industry, and the overall enjoyment of boating on the east coast, would be catastrophic."
The industry has begun to come together, from builders, to dealers, engine manufacturers, and other segments to fight. "The facts do not support the sweeping changes being proposed by NOAA," Pat Healey said in a statement. Pat Healey is the President of Viking Yachts, the largest sportfish builder in the world. "Since 1998 – 24 years – there have been 24 known right whale vessel strikes across 10 states. Of those, eight were attributed to boats from 35 to 65 feet. In our 58-year history, with more than 5,000 boats delivered, we have never had a report of our boats having an encounter with a right whale. And we would know because it would cause significant damage that would be repairable only by us.”
If you would like to submit a comment that will go directly to the NOAA, FOLLOW THIS LINK to the Federal Register. You can also located and contact your local congressman by going HERE. The International Game Fish Association has also made this easy for you by drafting a pre-written comment you can copy and paste.
(Below: The proposed seasonal speed zones for boats over 35-feet would mean you cannot go over 10 knots.)
Marine biologists and researchers studying the North American Right Whale population have noted that the two primary causes of injury have been entanglement in fishing equipment and being struck by a vessel. The NOAA Fisheries division has stated that 41% of all lethal collisions were in smaller vessels under 65-feet, although without significant evidence to support this.
“The proposed rule, as written, would be the most consequential maritime regulation that we have ever seen imposed on the recreational boating and fishing sector,” says John DePersenaire, the Director of Government Affairs and Sustainability for Viking Yachts. “It will affect not only boat owners but marinas, tackle shops, charter boat operators – basically all maritime-related businesses on the Atlantic Coast."
“We had heard talk of a proposal but were never directly contacted in any way,” DePersenaire continued. “This is important because the proposed rule imposes excessive and unnecessary negative impacts on our community as a direct response of NOAA single-handedly putting forward regulations without public input. Moreover, the proposed mandate would force thousands of recreational boats to operate at a speed that compromises their maneuverability and overall safety at sea.”
Viking also noted that in the last 24 years, there were 24 Right Whale strikes across 10 different states and only 8 of those collisions were in a boat within the 35-to-65 foot range.
United Yacht Sales stands with our peers and colleagues in the marine industry on this issue. There are simply too many lives at stake whose livelihood depend on the health of the boating industry. This proposed rule has been rushed and the NOAA has not engaged with leaders from the marine industry to work through the devastating impact it would make. We strongly urge you to use the links at the top and submit the proposed comment.