Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation not Backing NOAA Speed Restrictions
Eugene L. 12.07.22
We have covered the rushed proposal that the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put forward earlier this year. In effect the rules would put a 10-knot speed restriction for any boat 35 feet and larger. These new rules were drawn up to protect North Atlantic right whales in the southern calving grounds, but they have drawn a lot of opposition. From Charter Boat captains, port operations, and now even the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The 10-knot speed limit was already in effect for the areas where right whales travel but was only applied for vessels 65 feet or longer. The new rule would affect a lot more vessels by dropping the size limit down to 35 feet. The speed zone would be in place from Nov. 15-April 15 each calving season. The pushback from most anglers and other smaller vessel operators comes from the fact that the majority of whale strikes occur due to vessels larger than 65ft in length. While the FWC has other issues with the new rule proposal. The FWC is saying that these new rules are not well thought out and aren’t enforceable. Pretty much-wasted effort and only adds to a work load to the state’s law enforcement.
“The issues here are strikes from boats killing the right whales, and fishing entanglements,” FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said during the Commission’s meetings in Panama City. “There’s no doubt that the right whales are critically endangered, and there’s no doubt that boat strikes are one of the leading causes.”
“However, you’ll find in that letter (to NOAA Fisheries) that we’re pointing out some of the regulations that are being proposed, in our opinion,” Sutton said, “are expanding on regulations that are really not followed so much, or enforced so much.
“So, it’s kind of like doubling down on something we think would affect our law enforcement, we think it would affect our recreational fisheries. I believe we said we agree on the situation, but we think there’s a smarter way to regulate this.”
With so few Atlantic right whales left, and with their slow birthrate, each whale’s death is significant. But the problem lies in this proposal appearing to be a rushed effort that won’t help the whales but harm people’s livelihoods instead.