Gulf of Mexico
Cargo ship enters Tampa Bay.

FL - Florida Congressional Reps Back Bill to Ensure No Vessel Slowdown Zone in the Gulf of Mexico

Last week, Republicans in the Florida congressional delegation backed a proposal from U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., which “would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from issuing a vessel slowdown zone in the Gulf of Mexico until the U.S. Department of Commerce demonstrates that the protocols developed to protect Rice’s Whales (RWs) in the Gulf will not negatively impact our supply chains or maritime commerce.”

Higgins brought out the “Gulf of Mexico Commerce Protection Act” and offered some of the reasons behind the bill.

“Earlier this year, environmental activist groups filed a petition with the NOAA to establish a year-round 10-knot (approx. 11.5 mph) vessel speed restriction zone in the Rice’s whale ‘core’ habitat area in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, over 75,000 comments were submitted to the NOAA, many opposing the overly broad restriction,” Higgins’ office noted.

“Southwest Louisiana is home to a thriving maritime industry. Our ports serve as critical economic engines for our community and this great nation,”said Higgins. “As our nation continues to grapple with the effects of the supply chain crisis of the past three years, enforcing further limitations on vessel transit could cause catastrophic losses. By allowing partisan politics to dictate the future of our country’s economic prosperity, we’re setting ourselves up for massive failure. This legislation will ensure the security of both our maritime and commerce industries.”

The bill would “stop NOAA from issuing rulemaking to establish a vessel slowdown zone in the Gulf of Mexico; require NOAA to consult relevant government agencies and affected stakeholders in developing RWs protection protocols that do not resort to industry-killing policies such as vessel speed and night transit restrictions” and “directs the Department of Commerce to study the protocols to demonstrate no net negative impact on supply chains or maritime commerce to ensure that the protocols developed will balance interests in marine protection with our national maritime priorities” and “enhances accountability to Congress by demanding a report from the Department of Commerce with findings from the study within 60 days.”

Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Anna Paulina Luna and Dan Webster are co-sponsoring the bill.

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