Representatives Peltola, Boyle, Cuelar, and Gonzales author letter opposing NOAA overreach on North Atlantic right whale vessel speed rule

Washington D.C. (KINY) – Representatives Peltola (D-AK), Boyle (D-PA), Cuellar (D-TX), and Gonzalez (D-TX) sent a letter to Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to oppose a rule published on July 29, 2022, that would restrict certain vessel speeds in response to a decline in the population of North American Right Whales. This rule would have a significant impact on marine safety and coastal economies for an entire seaboard and could potentially affect up to 63,000 vessels, according to testimony from affected stakeholders.

“Most crucially,” the Representatives wrote, “the proposed rule assumes new protections for whales for which NOAA Fisheries does not provide evidence of a significant threat. Your agency references five documented NARW strikes in the last 15 years by vessels under 65 feet, one of which was apparently outside of the speed zones that already exist for larger vessels. The speed zones NOAA Fisheries created in 2008 have either yielded moderate or low compliance, which merits its own review, so it is hard to understand why NOAA would massively expand by area and seasonality new zones without any explanation about how to enforce them.”

“We applaud Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK), along with Reps. Gonzalez (D-TX), Cuellar (D-TX), and Boyle (D-PA), for urging NOAA to suspend their harmful proposed vessel speed restrictions along the Atlantic Coast,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “The proposed rule is based on flawed economic analyses and inaccurate assumptions and does not take into account the sophisticated technologies that are available to detect and avoid endangered marine life. This blanket speed rule will devastate the American recreational boating industry – the vast majority of which is made of small business owners – and coastal economies that rely on year-round access to our nation’s public waters. Thank you to Rep. Peltola for leading this letter and for demanding that NOAA take a balanced and thoughtful approach to rulemaking that protects the North Atlantic right whale without harming a core segment of the U.S. economy.”