Washington, D.C. – October 30, 2023 – The recreational fishing and boating community is applauding the decision by NOAA Fisheries to deny 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.
The petitioners were 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. The petition proposed the following restrictions:
- Mandatory 11 mph speed limit for all vessels transiting the proposed zone;
- 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 meters from Rice’s whales;
- Use and operate an Automatic Identification System, or notify NOAA of transits through the zone, and
- Report all non-compliance to NOAA within 24 hours.