By Wes Wolfe
Organized pushback against federal efforts to reduce North Atlantic right whale deaths continues to grow in South Atlantic states as shipping and charter fishing interests try to stall or stop the implementation of new speed restrictions for vessels of 35 feet or larger.
Their main beef with the rule is that it alters “the long-standing and effective navigation safety ‘deviation clause’ contained in the current regulations.”
‘The rule was originally amended in 2008 to provide a navigation safety deviation clause that would allow large commercial ships to safely navigate within the confines of the narrow offshore Federal Navigation Channels (FNC) along the U.S. east coas
That also came up in a recent meeting of the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority, which ultimately decided not to take a position on the new vessel strike reduction rule. However, the Florida Ports Council did in a recent tweet.
“FL seaports have been tireless advocates and stewards protecting the environment and marine life, but the proposed amendments present significant life and safety risks for all commercial, recreational, and military mariners who rely upon FL seaports,” the council tweeted.
Charter fishing captains have already expressed that the rule — 10 knots within the calving area from Nov. 15 to April 15 for vessels longer than 35 feet — will make part of their business impossible conduct .
Speed restriction rules were already in effect for vessels longer than 65 feet.
“Angler spending on impacted offshore recreational fishing trips is estimated at more than $15 million per year,” according to the senators’ letter. “These trips are likely to be cancelled or significantly shortened if vessels used are subject to a 10 knot speed restriction.”
There are so few right whales, and they reproduce so rarely, that each human-caused death is another step toward extinction. Scientists believe every North Atlantic right whale death over the past 50 years is human-caused, as the whales are not dying naturally and they have no real predators.
There are around 70 calving female North Atlantic right whales believed to be alive. In all, scientists believe there are around 340 total North Atlantic right whales remaining.
The only place these whales calve is off the coasts of Florida and Georgia,.