NEWS: Vessel Speed Restrictions Will Prevent Access to Fishing

The recreational fishing community cares about whale conservation but we need a smarter approach.

Since last summer when the proposal was first announced to effectively shut down the Atlantic ocean to boats over 35 feet for over half the year, the American Sportfishing Association and partners have been hard at work fighting back against this well-intentioned but poorly developed rule.

ASA is gaining traction and supporters on Capitol Hill, but much more work must be done to ensure this economically devastating rule, which will not help right whales in a meaningful way, does not go into effect.

Opponents in the extreme environmental community are undermining ASA efforts, and we need your help to share the message that the recreational fishing community cares about whale conservation, but we need a smarter approach.

The Restriction

North Atlantic Right Whales are an endangered species of whale that migrates from Massachusetts to North Florida throughout the year. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently proposed a rule requiring all boats 35 feet and longer that go offshore from Massachusetts to north Florida to restrict their speed to 10 knots (11.5 mph) or slower between November to April or May. The restricted area runs from Massachusetts to north Florida up to 90 miles offshore. The NMFS cited whale mortality from vessel strikes as the reason for the proposal.

Why It Matters

ASA understands the importance of protecting right whales from extinction. They are an important part of our coastal ecosystems, and stakeholders and policymakers must work together toward their survival. Unfortunately, this rule is misguided and intrusive. Due to the large area covered, the speed restriction will prevent offshore fishing trips from reaching their destinations in a timely manner, leaving little to no time for fishing. In addition, forcing boaters to travel at slow speeds, even in dangerous conditions, puts human safety at risk. Ultimately fishing trips won’t happen. Lost fishing days will harm the saltwater recreational fishing industry, which generates $6.3 billion in sales and supports 61,000 jobs throughout the affected region.

Although whale strikes are tragic, they are extremely unlikely by the boats covered under this proposal. Since 2008, there have been five small vessel (boats that are less than 65 feet) strikes on right whales while there have been 5.1 million fishing trips over that same period, meaning the chances of a small boat strike on a whale is less than one in a million. According to NOAA, there are 9,000 recreational boats that would be affected by this ruling while ASA’s estimates put this number closer to 63,000.

What ASA is Doing

Due to the significant impact this rule will have on anglers, boaters and coastal communities, ASA is calling on NMFS to pause this rule and work with us and other stakeholders on better options that protect both right whales and the outdoor recreation economy.

To that end, legislation has been introduced in Congress titled the “Protecting Whales, Human Safety and the Economy Act” that will pause the rule until emerging technology-based solutions are finalized that can better protect right whales.

Opportunities to Take Action

  1. Write Your Members of Congress
  2. Review ASA’s Coalition Page or visit
  3. Share a link to ASA’s Action Center on Social Media

2 on “NEWS: Vessel Speed Restrictions Will Prevent Access to Fishing

  1. TedGrackis

    Boo hoo
    Good thing my boat is less than 35’
    Let me go grab my worlds smallest violin for you…

  2. Art Howe

    Another dose of reality and common sense. The data does not support rigid restrictions. Thank you ASA.

    Art Howe
    Instructor, Fishing Safety

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