NOAA Seeks Comments on Proposal to Impose Vessel Speed Restrictions for the Protection of North Atlantic Right Whales

On August 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a proposed rule to restrict vessel speeds in areas where the North Atlantic Right Whale is known to be present. The proposed rule is intended to reduce the risk of harm to the species caused by strikes from vessels traveling at high speeds. In 2021 NMFS published an assessment of the effectiveness of a previous vessel speed rule stating that while the rule had made progress, additional action was needed to reduce the rate of mortality of the species.  

In this rulemaking NMFS would make the following changes to existing regulations:

(1) Modifications to spatial boundaries and seasonal management areas (SMA).

(2) Include vessels greater than 35 feet and less than 65 feet in length.

(3) Implement a dynamic speed zone framework that would mandate speed restrictions when the species is present even if it is outside of an SMA.

(4) Update the deviation provisions of the prior regulations.

NMFS is requesting comments on the rule.  Written comments are due by September 30, 2022.

Advocacy will host a virtual small business roundtable to discuss the proposed rule at a date to be determined. Interested entities may contact Prianka Sharma to be added to the invitation list.

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