Wednesday, June 5, 2024

NFWF Gets Grant to Develop Whale Avoidance Technology

On May 22, the White House announced $6 million in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to support grants for projects that develop technologies to minimize the risk of vessel strikes to the endangered North Atlantic right whalepopulation and other marine mammals.

The grant announcement comes at a time when the proposed expansion of the 2008 North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule is at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which represents the last phase of the rulemaking process.

The rule was transmitted in March to OMB by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which resides in the Department of Commerce.The transmission of the proposed rule to OMB occurred when NOAA was hosting a workshop to explore marine technologies that could lessen the risk of whale vessel strikes. The timing of the transmission of the rule to OMB frustrated the recreational boating and fishing industry, which has been adamant in its opposition to the rule and instead champions the use of technology by NOAA to address the North Atlantic right whale conservation challenge.

“The recreational boating industry has long been urging NOAA to accelerate the analysis of currently available technologies as an alternative and measurable approach to reducing vessel strike risk for recreational boats, and we’re glad to see NOAA finally making use of Inflation Reduction Act funding towards this effort,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “Technologies exist to help solve the North Atlantic right whale conservation challenge, which is why we continue to call upon the Administration to withdraw the vessel speed rule and instead use advanced marine technologies to mitigate the risk of vessel strikes.”

Large, ocean-going vessels are responsible for the vast majority of whale vessel strikes. NOAA admitted during the March technology workshop that the agency is unable to measure the effectiveness of the 2008 rule, which was concerning to the recreational boating and fishing industry and only further confirmed that NOAA has not engaged in rigorous data collection, research, and analysis on best vessel strike mitigation practices.

On May 15, NMMA sent a letter to NOAA urging the agency to reopen the docket for comments on the proposed rule. Read the letter here.

On May 16, Hugelmeyer met with officials at OMBto urge for the withdrawal of the rule, saying that technology exists today that can better protect the North Atlantic right whale without putting boater safety at risk and decimating the small businesses and coastal economies that make up the $230 billion recreational boating industry.

NMMA and its industry partners have repeatedly reached out to Members of Congress and NOAA to educate lawmakers and regulators on the technologies available to help lessen the risk of vessel strikes.

In February, NMMA hosted Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Janet Coit at the Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show to show her and the NOAA staff the technologies that exist and are available on boats now.

In April, NMMA and its industry partners hosted a technology showcase on Capitol Hill to demonstrate existing vessel strike mitigation technologies for members of Congress.

In June of 2023, Hugelmeyer testified in opposition to the rule at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

NMMA continues to call for the withdrawal of this rule. All those impacted by the NOAA rule are encouraged to write to their Member of Congress here: