Watchdog sounds alarm as feds near approving 10-knot maritime speed limit

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed a 10-knot speed limit for much of the Atlantic coast in a bid to protect the Whale population.
Speed boat

As the federal government nears final approval for a 10-knot maritime speed limit along the East Coast, the Southeastern legal Foundation is warning that such a move would adversely impact the economies of coastal communities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed a 10-knot speed limit for much of the Atlantic coast in a bid to protect the whale population. Violators could face up to $20,000 in fines and one year in prison. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Monday announced that approval for the speed limit had entered the final phase. 10-knots is equivalent to 11.5 miles per hour on land.

Detractors argue that the federal agencies lack the authority to impose such a measure.

"Millions of Americans boat and fish each year. These agencies don’t have constitutional or statutory authority to make that a crime. And they certainly can’t make up their own laws. If this rule goes forward, we are fully prepared to defend the rights of Americans," said Vice President of Litigation for SLF Braden Boucek in a press release.

Local business have also expressed concerns that the limit would undercut aquatic activities.

"A 10-knot speed limit in Atlantic waters would devastate our business. Most of our customers are recreational fishermen or charter boat captains who might as well not own a boat," said Tideline Boats President George Stronach. "When people buy a boat, especially in North Carolina, but also in our other major markets like Florida, they expect to be able to fish 12 months of the year, and you cannot fish if you can't exceed 10 knots. This rule will cost Americans thousands of jobs and crush American small businesses like ours."

"We have had potential customers who were on the fence about purchasing a boat tell us that this proposed regulation is a major factor in their purchasing decision," he added. "Our boats are built in Chowan County, North Carolina, a small county of about 14,000 people but with a long and proud boat building heritage. This industry employs hundreds of people in the county. It’s hard to imagine how it survives."

Living Waters Outdoors owner Rick Croson echoed those those concerns, saying "[a] lot of people in coastal North Carolina make their livelihood on the water. Myself included. My business is built on going to the gulfstream 60 miles offshore and there is no way to safely or practically travel 120 miles both ways at 10 knots."

"I've been fishing these waters my whole life, and I’ve never come close to hitting a whale. But if I can’t travel faster than 10-knots, then I will have to shut down," he warned. "Sadly this is more governmental overreach. This time it will destroy the livelihood of charter boats on the coast. I don’t know what comes next for the people of North Carolina. I hate to think what’s going to happen to them all."

"The way to save the whales is through technology," said SLF Executive Director Kimberly Hermann. "Pretty much everyone in America can track a package or monitor traffic in real time with their cell phone in their pocket. We can certainly track whales the size of an airplane. They don’t move particularly fast. Fishermen want to be allies. Why make enemies of them when they can help track and monitor endangered whales?"

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.