Take Action Today: Oppose Vessel Speed Restrictions in the Gulf of Mexico

The NMMA and other leading organizations representing recreational fishing and boating in the U.S. are urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to reject a petition to establish a year-round 10-knot (11 mph) vessel speed limit and other vessel-related measures in the Rice’s whale “core” habitat area in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recreational boating and fishing community stakeholders are encouraged to take action today on Boating United and share with your staff, networks and customers to provide input to NOAA asking the agency to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and recreational boating and fishing stakeholders to develop and implement a technology-driven solution that tracks and monitors the Rice’s whale to assist in avoiding vessel and boat strikes. The stakeholder comment period closes next week on July 6.

Click here to submit your feedback via Boating United

The petitioners are asking NOAA to use their authority under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to establish a “Vessel Slowdown Zone” from approximately Pensacola, Fla. to south of Tampa to protect the newly discovered Rice’s whale. On top of the mandatory 11 mph speed limit for all vessels transiting the proposed zone, the petition proposes the following additional restrictions:

  • No vessel transits at night
  • Vessels transiting through the zone must report their plans to NOAA, utilize trained visual observers, and maintain a separation distance of 500 m from Rice’s whales
  • Use and operate an Automatic Identification System, or notify NOAA of transits through the zone
  • Report all non-compliance to NOAA within 24 hours. There is zero evidence that a recreational vessel has ever struck a Rice’s whale.

Impacted stakeholders within the recreational boating and fishing community recommend NOAA does not initiate any rulemaking action based on the petition for the following reasons:

  • The petitioners fail to put forward any evidence that recreational vessels pose a risk to Rice’s whales that would justify the significant rules proposed in the petition.
  • The petition fails to propose action to address the greatest sources of mortality to the Rice’s whale.
  • NOAA has failed to engage with the recreational fishing and boating industry on Rice’s whale recovery planning or to better understand how their vessels may interact with Rice’s whales.
  • NOAA needs to fully investigate and report on the likelihood of recovering Rice’s whales given documented concerns about its population size.

Instead of moving forward with the petition for rulemaking, NOAA should:

  • Work with partners to address knowledge gaps on this rarely observed species to inform future recovery planning and strategies.
  • Allow the recreational fishing and boating industry to meaningfully contribute to the Rice’s whale recovery plan.
  • Develop a Recovery Implementation Strategy with input from all Gulf of Mexico stakeholders.

Learn more about the issue here.

About

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the nation’s leading trade association representing boat, marine engine and accessory manufacturers. Collectively, NMMA members manufacture an estimated 80 percent of marine products used in North America. NMMA is a unifying force and powerful voice for the recreational boating industry, working to strengthen and grow boating and protect the interests of its member companies.