NOAA’s Proposed Vessel Regulations Delayed – What Will Happen Next Year?

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On Oct. 16, 2009, NOAA made the following announcement;

“Comment Period Extension: NOAA has extended the deadline for submitting comments on proposed vessels regulation to protect killer whales in Puget Sound to Jan. 15, 2010.

We recognize that by extending the public comment period, we won’t have enough time to issue a final rule before the 2010 summer boating season. We continue to believe that it’s important to address the adverse effects of vessel traffic on killer whales in the near future. In light of the requests we’ve received for an extension of the comment period, however, we believe additional public outreach will enhance both NOAA Fisheries’ understanding of public concerns and the public’s understanding of the basis for our proposal. This will also allow time for cooperative efforts to refine the proposal. We’ll work toward adoption of a final rule before the 2011 summer boating season.

We’ll consider all comments and information received during the comment period in preparing a final rule.”

After giving us an opportunity to make comments on the proposed vessel regulations and to attend public meetings, NOAA has altered their course of action in response to the feedback. Everyone seems to have been caught off guard when the proposed regulations were announced, and if that was an error on the part of NOAA and NMFS, they are now correcting it. We needed to be heard, and they listened.

I find this impressive, because although it is less cumbersome to say “NOAA”or “NMFS”, what we are really talking about is a group of people to whom we have given the huge responsibility of saving our southern resident orcas from going extinct – and they don’t have a whole lot of time to get it done.

Those folks at NOAA are trying to implement fairly swift and bold measures, measures which will impact our lives and require change from us, measures which they feel are necessary. Yet they are willing to take the gamble that another year of doing nothing will be okay, because we need the time to digest the concepts and adjust our own thinking. They are also open to finding compromise – but we shouldn’t forget that they are charged with an enormous responsibility: to protect and enhance the survivorship of the members of J,K, and L pods.

The Newest Member of L Pod Looks Healthy!

Ultimately, it is up to us to make changes anyway, and I wonder
what changes can be made on our own during the next year and a half? Will we voluntarily go slowly and give the orcas a wider berth? Will we voluntarily reduce our salmon catch in the area during the leaner ‘no pink salmon’ year?

I’m betting that we will at least try.

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