Marine Recreation Community Requests Partnership with NOAA in Funding North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation

September 28, 2023

Washington, D.C. – September 28, 2023 – Yesterday, leaders representing America’s millions of recreational anglers and boaters, the sporting conservation community and the marine recreation industry sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting a collaborative partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in allocating funds for North Atlantic right whale (NARW) conservation. This request is in response to NOAA’s commitment to provide $82 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding to conserve and recover endangered NARW, a portion of which will be aimed at reducing the risk of vessel strikes.

NOAA is in the final stages of contemplating a proposed rule that would impose a mandatory 10-knot (11 mph) speed restriction for vessels 35 feet and larger from Massachusetts to central Florida up to 90 miles offshore and in some instances, for up to 7 months of the year. While the speed limit proposal was developed without input from affected stakeholders and experts in the recreational boating and fishing industry, the marine recreation community is hopeful that NOAA will consider its request to collaborate on the disbursement of a portion of the $82 million and work to ensure effective utilization of this funding to mitigate vessel strikes.
Specifically, the letter calls for NOAA to designate the BoatU.S. Foundation, which successfully administers ocean debris program funds for NOAA, to administer critical elements of the NARW conservation funding for:

  • Monitor and Modeling: $5.2 million to advance modeling using AI and historic/live data to predict whale locations. This would be distinct from the passive acoustic monitoring proposal by NOAA.
  • Vessel Strike Risk Reduction: $16.7 million for research, development and deployment of technology and practices to eliminate vessel strikes by recreational boaters. Plus, $5.1 million for education and outreach to boaters on avoidance and compliance (both risk reduction and enforcement categories).
  • Enforcement Efforts: $5.0 million for electronic communication advancements in enforcement mitigation so that boaters are fully informed of situational whale detection and responses. 

“We are pleased to see that NOAA is committing funds from the Inflation Reduction Act to help protect right whales,” said Chris Edmonston, vice president government affairs for Boat Owners Association of the United States. “We at BoatU.S. want to ensure those funds effectively mitigate the risk of vessel strikes to allow the continued use of public waters without compromising safety or access.” 

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in NOAA’s budget have been dedicated to marine mammal research in the last 10 years, with a major chunk of that earmarked for technology development. But the key is not the amount of funding, rather the strategic direction it takes,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “As recreational anglers and boaters face the potential of extreme federal speed limits in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, we know archaic vessel speed restrictions are not the best we can do to protect endangered whales. Technology is the answer, and the solutions are within reach. It is time for NOAA to lean on experts in marine recreational boating and marine electronics to help solve this conservation problem.”
“The Commerce Department’s decision to allocate funding from the Inflation Reduction Act toward conservation efforts for the North Atlantic right whale is encouraging. However, for these funds to be effective, the proposed rulemaking must be paused to ensure recreational marine industry data, technology and information are first taken into account,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “It’s critical this new funding be put to work before a rule is enacted, not after, so decisions are rooted in accurate data and adequately protect boater safety, the North Atlantic right whale, and Americans’ access to public waters.”

“Technology is key to help endangered whales recover and maintain public access to the ocean,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We are eager to collaborate with NOAA to ensure these Inflation Reduction Act funds are meaningfully put to use to solve this complex challenge.” 
“The BoatU.S. Foundation has a long history of educating boaters and is a leader in promoting safe, clean and responsible boating. By working through the BoatU.S. Foundation and capitalizing on the knowledge of experts in the marine industry, NOAA can accelerate progress on providing real-time monitoring data to the public and vessel operators so mariners can make informed decisions and avoid potential whale encounters,” Angers continued.