“This is a beach-town Armageddon,” said a concerned individual as they walked down the dock at Clarks Landing Marina in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. They expressed their worry that no one would want to board a boat that could only go up to 10 knots, pointing to the three Yamaha 300s on the stern of their motorboat. They may have a point, as those Yamaha engines can propel their 36-foot Contender up to a speed of 65 mph.

However, a new rule proposed by the Biden administration, under the auspices of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would limit the speed to 11 mph for boats longer than 35 feet, including theirs. The purpose of this speed restriction is to protect the endangered right whale. The rule would be in effect for up to seven months a year, extending up to 100 miles off the East Coast.

The boat operator, Freddy Gamboa, who runs a charter boat company, expressed his concerns about the proposed rule. He explained that his clients pay for the speed, and if implemented, it would be a devastating loss for his business. He estimated that he would lose a third of his trips, amounting to almost 70 trips and a loss of approximately $150,000.

The worry isn’t limited to boat captains; many business owners in Point Pleasant rely on boat tourism for their livelihoods. Andy Joseph, the owner of the Boatyard restaurant, emphasized that tourism brings in a significant portion of their revenue. Brian Stensland, the owner of Fishermen’s Supply, emphasized that if people aren’t patronizing their business, it could lead to their closure. Rich Billotti, the owner of the Surfside Motel, echoed these concerns, highlighting the impact the speed restrictions would have on fishing trips and the tourism industry along the Jersey Shore.

These concerns extend beyond New Jersey, affecting the entire East Coast. The Marine Manufacturers Association predicts that the rule would jeopardize 340,000 jobs and put $84 billion in boat tourism at risk. Despite these concerns, NOAA, in a statement, defended the rule, citing the dwindling population of right whales as the reason for their decision.

Critics argue that there have been only five reported whale strikes from boats under 65 feet in the past 15 years, making the proposed rule seem excessive. Congressman Buddy Carter from Georgia expressed frustration over the impact the rule could have on ports and commercial fishermen. Carter, along with Congresswoman Mary Peltola from Alaska, introduced a bill to defund the rule before its implementation, highlighting the need to protect the economy without harming the environment.

The boat operator, Gamboa, supports the defunding efforts, emphasizing the widespread devastation it would cause along the East Coast. It is evident that many stakeholders are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of this rule, and the debate continues.

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