More Progress Against the 10-Knot Restriction 7/23/2023
The boating and fishing community continues to gain momentum to halt the federal government’s proposed 10-knot restriction along the Eastern Seaboard. At a House National Resources subcommittee oversight hearing last week, three key witnesses from the affected industries made strong arguments against the dangerous and misguided speed limit, which would extend from Massachusetts to Florida for seven months annually and up to 100 miles offshore for boats 35 feet and larger.

Viking was instrumental in facilitating the testimony of long-time New Jersey charterboat captain Fred Gamboa. “Boats over 35 feet would essentially be unusable for approximately seven months of the year,” Fred told the subcommittee. “I simply can’t cover the ground to access the targeted fisheries when limited to 10 knots. This would amount to the loss of no less than 70 trips with an estimated economic cost of $140,000.” Fred, who operates out of Point Pleasant, has been a longtime friend of Viking and active participant in fisheries management issues, also emphasized the devastating safety, privacy and public access impacts of the rule, which “demand thoughtful evaluation and exploration of alternative approaches.”

“All of the witnesses did an excellent job of delivering balanced, reasonable statements and solutions,” says Viking Director of Government Affairs and Sustainability John DePersenaire, who attended the three-hour hearing. “Fred played a major role in not only elevating our message to another level but also gaining bipartisan support.”

The hearing shined light on the many glaring inaccuracies and false assumptions NOAA made when putting forth its proposed rule changes.

Frank Hugelmeyer, the President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, also made a huge impact: “Recreational boaters and anglers are longtime conservationists who share the goal of protecting the North Atlantic right whale and our ocean ecosystems. We’re committed to investing in technologies that do just that. Marine mammal protection, economic prosperity and access to our cherished waters can coexist. It’s a false choice to make Americans choose one over the other.”

Two other positive developments coincided with the hearing. A new bipartisan act from U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Boozman (R-AR) was introduced; the bill aims to prohibit NOAA from issuing the 10-knot rule until technological solutions can help better track the whales and avoid strikes. “As Co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and as an avid sportsman myself, I know firsthand how important our fishing culture is to who we are, whether that’s on our trout streams in West Virginia or coastal fishing along the Eastern Seaboard,” said Senator Manchin. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Protecting Whales, Human Safety and the Economy Act of 2023.”

‘It’s a big win for us,” John says of the Manchin/Boozman legislation. Another positive development is NOAA has agreed to assign a liaison to the Whale and Vessel Safety Taskforce (WAVS). Viking initiated the formation of this panel of experts committed to finding technology-based solutions to track and protect marine mammals, particularly the right whale.

Jon Hare, Science and Research Director for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, will join WAVS immediately. “Jon represents the laying of the groundwork for the public-private partnership between recreational boating and fishing and NOAA,” says John DePersenaire. “This is critical for our success.”
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