The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently denied a petition to establish a mandatory speed limit and other vessel-related mitigation measures for the protection of endangered Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico. According to NOAA, the decision was made based on various factors, including scientific assessments, the potential economic impact on commercial and recreational activities, and the effectiveness of existing conservation measures in the region.
Earlier this year, a petition was submitted to NOAA requesting the establishment of a 10-knot (11mph) mandatory speed limit and additional vessel-related mitigation measures to enhance the protection of Rice’s whale–a newly discovered species listed as endangered and known to inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. Organizations representing the recreational fishing and boating community submitted comments urging NOAA to reject the petition citing a lack of data and science supporting such measures.
While this decision has no direct bearing on the North Atlantic right whale (NARW) proposed rule, it demonstrates NOAA is heeding the concerns the recreational boating industry has raised over the last year in response to the NARW proposed rule and Gulf petition. Further, it has shown the ability to apply careful consideration of economic and conservation factors in making evidence-based determinations on conservation measures. It is anticipated that NOAA will release the final NARW rule by the end of the calendar year.