South Carolina Boating & Fishing Alliance Supports National Safe Boating Week Amid Safety Concerns Over NOAA's Proposed Speed Rule

May 20, 2024


COLUMBIA, SC — May 20, 2024 — As National Safe Boating Week (May 18-24) commences, the South Carolina Boating & Fishing Alliance (SCBFA) joins the National Safe Boating Council and organizations across the country in promoting crucial safety measures for all boating enthusiasts. This annual initiative emphasizes the importance of wearing life jackets, maintaining equipment, monitoring weather conditions, planning trips, and boating soberly. To read more about SCBFA’s Five Tips for Safer Boating click here.

SCBFA supports these safety guidelines. However, we express grave concerns about the arbitrary 10-knot (11 mph) speed restriction proposed by NOAA and the Biden Administration, which could inadvertently compromise boater safety. The expansion of the 2008 North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction rule mandates that recreational boats travel at 10 knots (11 mph) up to 90 miles offshore along the entire eastern seaboard for much of the year, creating significant hazards for small craft operators. NOAA’s own data shows there has never been a documented whale strike with a boat between 35-65 feet in South Carolina waters.

Key Points of Concern:

– Risk of Capsizing: Small recreational boats struggle to stay stable at low speeds in open ocean conditions. Unlike large ocean-going vessels, these boats are not designed to cut through choppy waters at such low speeds, increasing the likelihood of capsizing or swamping.

– Navigational Challenges: Operating a boat on plane at higher speeds enhances visibility and navigability. Limiting boats to 10 knots restricts their ability to maneuver effectively, particularly in deteriorating weather conditions.

– Safety in Localized Weather Events: Speed is a vital safety asset during sudden weather changes, such as thunderstorms. Boaters need the capability to return to port quickly when faced with approaching storms. The proposed speed restriction would hinder this ability, potentially trapping boaters in dangerous situations.

-Negative Economic Impact on Small Businesses and Recreational Activities: Extending “go-slow zones” up to 90 miles from shore would deter many recreational boaters and anglers from venturing out, fearing for their personal safetyThe cancellation of trips due to safety concerns would devastate charter businesses and diminish the enjoyment of recreational boating and fishing.

“The safety of our boating community is our top priority, and while we support initiatives that enhance boater safety, the proposed NOAA speed rule does the opposite,” said Gettys Brannon, President and CEO of SCBFA. “This regulation would make it more dangerous for small boat operators by limiting their ability to navigate safely in changing weather conditions. We urge NOAA and the Biden Administration to withdraw this rule and work with us to find a balanced solution that protects both marine life and human life.”

The SCBFA urges NOAA and the Biden Administration to reconsider the proposed rule. A balanced approach is necessary to protect both marine life and human life, ensuring that recreational boaters can safely enjoy our waters without undue risk.

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