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US whale protection measures ‘misguided’ says ASA


Recreational fishing’s concerns over the proposed North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Speed Rule will be aired at a Congressional hearing today.

The proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be heard by the Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries, providing an opportunity for the fishing and boating industries to voice their numerous concerns.

The proposed changes are intended to protect the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, a species that migrates from Massachusetts to North Florida throughout the year. Whale mortality from vessel strikes is cited as the reason for the proposal.

The new ruling would require all boats 35 feet and longer that go offshore in that region to restrict speed to ten knots (11.5mph) or slower from November to April or May.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is hoping that time will be allowed to examine the impacts of the proposed changes and for coordination on a more viable level.

While recognising the importance of protection, the ASA maintains the rule is ‘misguided and intrusive’, as the slow zone would extend as far as 90 miles out to sea.

The Association also maintains that whale strikes are extremely unlikely by boats covered under the proposal. Since 2008 there have been five small vessel strikes on right whales, while there have been 5.1 million fishing trips in the same period.

Such a restriction would leave insufficient time for fishing and the result would damage the saltwater recreational fishing industry, which generates $6.3 billion in sales and supports 61,000 jobs throughout the region.

And although the NOAA says 9,000 recreational boats would be affected by the ruling, ASA estimates put the number closer to 63,000, and will today ask for a pause on the ruling so that better options can be found.

Witnesses include the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Frank Hugelmeyer, charter boat captain Freddie Gamboa and the American Pilot Association’s Clay Diamond.

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