May 28, 2024

Atlantic States Sportsmen’s Caucuses Offer Another Round of Thoughts on Whale Rule

Article Contact: Chris Horton,

Why It Matters: State legislative sportsmen’s caucus leaders along the Atlantic Coast understand the importance of protecting North Atlantic right whales (NARW) and fully support efforts to recover the species. However, a proposed rule regarding vessel speed reductions along much of the Atlantic seaboard will create significant access barriers for offshore anglers and boaters for more than half the year while doing little for NARW conservation. The proposed rule is currently with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review and approval. Bipartisan leaders of nine Atlantic state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses recently weighed in with OMB and urged a more collaborate rulemaking process that works with the boating and fishing community to develop better alternative solutions.


  • An exceedingly precautionary vessel speed rule currently proposal to protect North Atlantic right whales would do little for whale conservation while having major adverse impacts to boating access, coastal economies, and the fishing and boating industry on the Atlantic.
  • The White House Office of Management and Budget provides a final opportunity to make a case for revising the rule in favor or more effective alternatives that both conserves whales and access to our Atlantic coast fisheries.

On May 23, bipartisan state legislative sportsmen’s caucus leaders from nine Atlantic Coast states submitted a letter to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) concerning NOAA’s proposed NARW Vessel Strike Reduction Rule (VSR). The final rule was first published in August of 2022, and OMB’s OIRA is the last stage of the approval process that allows for expressing concerns with the VSR and to present a rational for other alternatives before the rule is final.

The last version of the proposed rule that was publicly available calls for implementing a massive 10-knot speed zone for boats 35 feet and longer from Massachusetts to Florida for much of the year to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. In the letter, the legislators expressed their full support for right whale conservation efforts, but they also expressed concerns with the substantial impact of the proposed vessel speed rule on the ability of anglers and boaters to venture offshore for much of the year, the potential for problems with safety at sea, the lack of measurable benefits for whales, and the lack of engagement with the recreational fishing and boating community on the development of more viable alternative solutions.

Equally concerning for the coastal communities they represent is the rule’s impact on the recreational charter fishing industry and the access they provide for thousands of anglers who cannot afford their own boat. The proposed 10-knot maximum speed limit extending 40 to 90 miles offshore will considerably extend travel times, reduce available fishing time, increase trip costs, and prohibit safe access to productive fishing areas for much of the year.

With recent advancements in technologies including aerial surveillance, satellite tagging, vessel-mounted infrared cameras, marine radar, forward looking sonar, crowd-sourcing applications, and geofencing capabilities to transmit known whale locations to nearby vessels, North Atlantic right whale conservation could be more successfully achieved by using this real-time information to alert boaters of right whale presence so that they may avoid dangerous collisions.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the entire marine recreational fishing and boating community will continue to advocate for more viable alternatives for North Atlantic right whale conservation while protecting angling and boating access.

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