South Carolina GOP Delegation Expresses Concern Over Proposed NOAA Changes to North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) joined his Republican colleagues in the South Carolina delegation in sending a letter to Biden administration officials expressing their concerns over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) proposed changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule.

Currently, most vessels 65 feet or longer must travel at 10 knots or less in certain locations along the U.S. East Coast at certain times of the year. NOAA’s proposed change would expand the mandatory speed restriction to 10 knots or less in designated areas to include vessels 35-65 feet in length.

While intended to protect the North Atlantic Right Whale, NOAA’s proposed rule lacks a plausible basis for imposing a 10-knot speed limit on boats in the 35-65-foot size class.

“NOAA’s Regulatory Impact Review estimates that the cumulative impacts for all vessel size classes and regions combined will be $46.2 million nationwide. However, just in current inventory, the South Carolina Boating & Fishing Alliance estimates the loss of their member dealers in South Carolina alone to be $77 million. Implementation of this proposed rule would not only harm the boating and fishing industries but also have significant downstream economic effects on tourism, hospitality, consumer goods, dining, and tax revenue generation in South Carolina,” the lawmakers wrote in part. 

“South Carolinians are committed to protecting our natural resources and the environment. Our boating and fishing communities are at the forefront of environmental conservation efforts. However, the proposed vessel speed rule poses an existential threat to these industries and could impede conservation efforts rather than advance them. Unfortunately, NOAA failed to engage and collaborate with either recreational boating and fishing communities or harbor pilots when drafting this proposed rule,” they continued.

Read the full letter here.

In October 2022, Senator Scott joined Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in sending a letter to the NOAA regarding a proposed change to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. In their letter, the senators argued the rule change would slow operations at the port, hurt sport fishers and boat manufacturers, and threaten the lives of harbor pilots.