WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Clay Higgins (R-LA) and Congressman Neal Dunn (R-FL) introduced the Gulf of Mexico Commerce Protection Act, which would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from issuing a vessel slowdown zone in the Gulf of Mexico until the 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.

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.

This legislation has support from the Gulf Ports Association, Marine Retailers Association of the America’s (MRAA), Florida Ports Association, and St. Andrew Bay Pilots Association.

The Gulf of Mexico Commerce Protection Act 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.
  • 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.
  • Enhances accountability to Congress by demanding a report from the Department of Commerce with findings from the study within 60 days.

Text of the bill can be found here.

“Southwest Louisiana is home to a thriving maritime industry. Our ports serve as critical economic engines for our community and this great nation,”said Congressman 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.”

“Florida’s maritime activities are vitally important to our state’s economy and supports thousands of jobs. Much of the Gulf of Mexico, especially my district, would fall under the 10-knot rule,” said Congressman Dunn.“This nonsensical and catastrophic rule would slow down transportation and devastate the seafood industry. I’m proud to join Rep. Higgins in this effort to protect the Gulf Coast’s economy.”

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