MRAA, MTAs Seek Monitoring Technology to Counter Right Whale Rule

Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations Manager in blue Dealer Week shirt
Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations Manager

With the support of 17 state and national marine trades associations, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas submitted a letter to members of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) to stall proposed changes to the onerous Right Whale Rule. MRAA and its MTA colleagues asked Committee members to add language to the CJS Appropriations Act to provide the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration with $5 million to fund the design and deployment of a near real-time monitoring technology and mitigation program for threatened or endangered cetaceans, like the Right Whale.

Our letter advocates for the inclusion of a provision that will ultimately bar NOAA from moving forward with the implementation of its proposed changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule until the near real-time monitoring technology is fully implemented. The pause will be in effect at least until the Secretary of the Department of Commerce provides a report to the CJS Subcommittees detailing how the newly developed technology and mitigation protocols inform the proposed changes to the Right Whale rule.

Assuring that this technology is developed and deployed is critical. Conservation is at the heart of recreational boating and fishing, and we believe a collaborative effort is needed to protect the endangered Right Whale. Rather than implementing the proposed rule as currently drafted – which goes too far and ultimately impedes access – we propose regulations that achieve a balanced approach and uses technology to locate the important whale pods. Such a plan would protect whales, safeguard boater privacy rights, nurture thousands of small businesses and preserve vibrant coastal economies that rely on access to America’s public waters.

Near identical language to the provision we requested for inclusion in the CJS Appropriations Act was actually included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed and signed into law just before the end of 2022, which also marked the end of the 117th Congress. The previous inclusion of this provision highlights lawmakers’ longstanding commitment to the health and safety of marine mammals, while also maintaining access for recreational boating. The inclusion of this provision in the CJS appropriations title is essential to provide funding to develop vital technology while simultaneously causing NOAA to pause on implementation of the new Right Whale Rule.

NOAA has proposed a substantial expansion of its North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule that would shrink recreational boating access along the East Coast. The existing rule applies to boats measuring 65 feet in length and greater within locations like breeding and calving areas and heavily trafficked ports, where risk to the North Atlantic Right Whale is highest. Under the proposed rule expansion, all boats 35 feet in length and larger would be limited to a speed of 10 knots (11 mph) within a vast area of the U.S. eastern seaboard, extending from Massachusetts to central Florida, for up to 8 months out of the year and in some places up to 90 miles offshore. The letter submitted to the CJS subcommittee is one of many steps groups in the conservation and recreational boating and angling community have taken to highlight our opposition to the proposed rule. This appropriations request will be an important part of our industry’s outreach efforts during this year’s American Boating Congress, taking place from May 8-10, in Washington, D.C.

It’s not too late to sign up, join this incredible event and make your voice heard.

Looking to get more involved with marine industry advocacy efforts? Click here to see the different ways you can get involved.