To the Editor:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed a “North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule,” which would impose speed regulations on vessels 35 feet and larger along the Atlantic coast.
This proposal presents serious setbacks for the recreational boating industry, instigates serious safety concerns for boaters, and will negatively impact a multitude of marine dealers and manufacturers here in New Jersey. Our leaders in Washington must speak out against this proposed rule to avoid the numerous unintended consequences on our $170 billion industry.
South Jersey Yacht Sales provides boats to hundreds of families along the Atlantic seaboard on the water each year. South Jersey Yacht Sales is the largest new boat dealer and broker in NJ that specializes in sportfish style center consoles and yachts such as Viking Albemarle, Invincible, Jupiter, Valhalla, and Yellowfin.
During the past 10 years, the fall recreational fishery off the New Jersey coastline has improved greatly and keeps our clients on the water longer and into January. Fall Swordfishing, Tuna and Stripers along the NJ coast has emerged as a favorite recreation that supports many businesses much longer than years past.
Typically, Swordfish and Tuna are caught in the Canyons, a 70 Mile trip, while Bluefin Tuna and Striped Bass are close to the beaches, so much so, just about any sized boat can enjoy. Center console sportfish boats have gotten much larger in recent years due to advances in propulsion systems and consumer demand.
These boaters are always on the lookout for floating objects or whales and are not the source of catastrophic whale casualties. Our sister company, South Jersey Yacht Sales and Service Center located in Somers Point NJ has never had an emergency haul out for a whale strike. This facility services over 400 boats including transients, Coast Guard, rescue operations such as Sea Tow and Boat US (Tow Boat). Our boats propulsion systems and accessories have long been a staple in recreational boater and anglers’ offshore trips. Unfortunately, NOAA’s proposed rule – though good intentioned – will place overburdensome restrictions on boat and fishing outings and in many instances will force the cancellation of these trips.
We are strong supporters of wildlife protection and the industry’s commitment to conservation and clean and healthy waterways are second to none. However, due to the very real negative impacts this rule will have on a major economic driver, NOAA must press pause on this rule and engage with key stakeholders to reach an agreeable solution that protects the right whale, ensures our waters are safe for all, and doesn’t jeopardize an industry which has contributed so much to our Atlantic coast communities.