“This is a beach-town Armageddon,” said Freddy Gamboa as he walked down the dock at Clarks Landing Marina in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. “No one is going to want to get on this boat” if can go only up to 10 knots, he said as he motioned to the three Yamaha 300s on the stern of his motorboat.
And he may be right. The Yamahas can get his 36-foot Contender up to a speed of 65 mph.
But a new rule proposed by the Biden administration under the auspices of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would limit that speed to 11 mph for his and every other boat longer than 35 feet. The speed restriction, designed to protect the endangered right whale, would stay in effect for up to seven months out of the year and as far out as 100 miles off the East Coast.
“[My clients] pay for the speed,” said Gamboa, a charter boat company operator who has relied on speed to get him to the fishing grounds.
“It would be devastating loss to us,” he said. “We’d lose a third of our trips, which is almost 70 trips, and almost $150,000 loss to my business.”
But it’s not just boat captains who are worried. Many business owners in Point Pleasant rely on boat tourism for their livelihoods.
“Tourism accounts for a lot of our revenue,” said Andy Joseph, the owner of the Boatyard, a harbor-side restaurant downtown. “These industries (commercial and recreational fishing) are a significant part of our business model.”
“If people aren’t walking through my doors,” said Brian Stensland, motioning to the front door of Fishermen’s Supply, “then we’re going to be out of business.”
Stensland pointed out that Fishermen’s Supply has been operating for 75 years.
“We are an onsite operation,” he said. “We are not on the internet. This could be the end of us.”
Rich Billotti, the owner of the Surfside Motel up the street, agreed.
“Many guests stay with me before and/or after fishing,” he said. “These offshore speed restrictions will limit these fishing trips. It won’t only affect me, it will affect the whole hospitality industry at the Jersey Shore.”
And not just New Jersey, but the entire East Coast.
According to the Marine Manufacturers Association, the rule will affect 340,000 jobs and put $84 billion in boat tourism at risk.
No one from NOAA would speak to Fox News – which broke the story on the proposed rule last December – but in a statement, the agency pointed out that there are only about 350 right whales left.
“This rule is designed to reduce the risk of mortalities from vessel strikes and afford the species a greater opportunity to recover,” the statement read.
The problem, according to critics, is that there have been only five actual whale strikes from boats under 65 feet in the past 15 years.
“And what’s so frustrating,” said Buddy Carter as he walked close to the U.S. Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., “is the fact that even if you use NOAA’s calculations, then the chances of a right whale strike are less than one in a million.”
Carter is a Republican congressman from coastal Georgia, home to some of America’s busiest and hard-to-navigate ports.
“[The rule doesn’t make any sense,” he said, “if you consider the impact that this could have on our ports, on our commercial fishermen.”
On Friday, Carter and Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, introduced a bill to defund the rule before it could be implemented.
“We care about the right whales” said Carter. “But we can’t destroy our economy because of some rules and regulations that have been implemented by unelected bureaucrats.”
Gamboa fully supports a defuding.
“It’s going to affect every coastal town from Boston all the way down to Florida,” he said. “Everyone will be devastated.”