NJ Sportfishing Industry Faces a Severe Threat Because of Whales
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, may soon adopt a speed reduction rule that could prove to be disastrous for New Jersey’s sport fishing and tourist industries.
To protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, NOAA has proposed cutting the maximum speed limit for all boats 35 feet or larger to 11 miles per hour, up to 90 miles off the coast of New Jersey, extending along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to Massachusetts.
According to Jeff Angers, the president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, if this proposed regulation, which would be in effect from November to May is adopted, it will basically shut down maritime activity on the entire Atlantic Seaboard, and fishing boats will go out of business.
Fishing outings would be canceled
“When you require boats to go that slow they can’t get to the fishing grounds in some cases, in one day, and so you know what’s going to happen is they simply won’t go,” he said
He said some people believe “they want to deny access to America’s public oceans, and they’re using the North Atlantic right whale as the excuse to pinch access and opportunity.”
Angers said this issue is vitally important whether you’re a boat enthusiast, an angler, or you simply prefer to stay on dry land, because the recreational boating industry in New Jersey has an annual $ 6.5 billion impact.
It's big business
“It supports 29,000 jobs in 1,200 businesses, and you have 147,000 registered boats in the state of New Jersey alone.”
He pointed out that last year over a million fishermen in New Jersey “contributed $1.1 billion in economic output, and supported 7,500 additional jobs in New Jersey on the recreational fishing side.”
Boats aren't designed to go very slow
He said many fishing boats are built to cut through the ocean and skim along the top of the water when they’re operating at an ideal speed, but when a boat slows down to 11 miles an hour “they’re basically dead in the water, and they’re drafting a whole lot more, which means they’re deeper in the water column and they’re much more susceptible to waves.”
He noted the only time the proposed 11 mph speed restriction would be lifted is if NOAA posts a Gale Force wind warning, which means if he’s in a 40-foot boat in the open Atlantic Ocean in 35 mph winds, "I’m expected to go 10 knots and let the waves come over the bow and drown my family. That’s just not smart public policy.”
He said concern about the whales is justified but “there is scant evidence that vessels smaller than 65 feet are contributing to the decline of the North Atlantic right whale.”
Right now a speed limit of 11 mph only applies to boats 65 feet and larger in certain areas of the ocean where young whales are present.
Angers stressed boaters and fisherman marvel at and respect whales, which are beautiful and important to the marine ecosystem “but shutting down maritime activity is not the way to go.”
We want to help
The Center for Sportfishing Policy has assembled a task force to look at technology and monitoring tools that can mitigate the risk of vessel strikes with whales and other sea creatures.
“NOAA Fisheries is working hard to develop effective, long-term North Atlantic right whale vessel strike reduction measures," a NOAA spokesman said. "NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the comments it received (on the speed reduction proposal) and anticipates taking final action on the proposed rule in 2023.”