Appropriators set conditions on plan to protect right whales

By Rob Hotakainen | 03/04/2024 04:13 PM EST

Spending legislation would establish new requirements before NOAA can finalize a rule to force more boaters to slow down.

A Georgia Department of Natural Resources boat crew assesses a dead juvenile right whale.

A boat crew assessing a dead juvenile right whale about 20 miles off Tybee Island, Georgia, last month. Georgia Department of Natural Resources via AP

NOAA Fisheries would have to satisfy a set of conditions before imposing speed limits on more boaters to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, under a new spending bill released by congressional appropriators Sunday.

The fiscal 2024 bill would order NOAA “to engage with affected stakeholders and incorporate relevant comments” before finalizing its rule to prevent vessel strikes. That would include the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The measure would also encourage NOAA to work with other federal agencies, including the Office of Naval Research and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to test and evaluate new technologies that would better track the movement of whales.


That work would involve academic institutions and the private sector. In addition, appropriators asked NOAA to include funding for a pilot program and a research and development initiative as part of the agency’s budget request for fiscal 2025.