Why It Matters: Offshore fishing is an integral part of Georgia’s sporting heritage, and it also supports many coastal economies. Proposed federal regulations that limit the speed in which vessels can travel off the east coast gravely threaten fishing opportunities, economies, and the safety of boaters. These regulations were proposed without input from the recreational fishing or boating communities, lack a real-time monitoring and avoidance component, and will do little for North Atlantic right whale conservation.
- On March 23, Georgia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative David Knight introduced HR 651.
- HR 651 urged the Georgia Congressional Delegation to assist in finding reasonable solutions to protect North Atlantic right whales without destroying Georgia’s coastal culture and economy.
- This resolution was brought about in response to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) proposed rule to limit the speed of vessels over 35 feet in length and greater to 10 knots within an area extending most of the Eastern Seaboard, for up to 8 months out of the year and, in some places, up to 90 miles offshore.
- On March 29, HR 651 passed the House of Representatives on a strong, bipartisan vote of 168-2.
While the recreational fishing industry supports efforts to conserve and protect right whales utilizing science-based information and practices, the proposed vessel speed restriction does not follow the best available science. With only ~350 individual Atlantic right whales left, the chances of recreational fishermen striking them with their vessels are incredibly low, and subjecting fishermen on vessels 35 feet and greater to a 10-knot speed restriction was not justified by assumptions used in NOAA’s risk modeling and pose serious safety risks to boaters.
HR 651 stated, “…with recent advancements in aerial surveillance, passive acoustic monitoring, satellite tagging, sonar, and DNA detection technologies combined with the relatively few individual right whales off our coast, mitigation would be more successful and less economically harmful by using real-time information to alert boaters of right whale presence and implementing slow speed requirements when and where whales are present…”
The recreational angling community is supportive of conserving all whale populations. However, to be successful, we must employ existing and emerging technologies to monitor and respond to whale presence on a real time basis, rather than implementing draconian blanket speed zones that will do little for whale conservation while coming at the expense of recreational fishing, coastal economies, and conservation funding through the Sportfish Recreation Act. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds the leadership of Representative David Knight and will continue to work to protect opportunities for anglers and boaters in Georgia and across the country.