Navigating the Rice Whale Regulations: Tuberville Acknowledges Ongoing Challenges

Navigating the Rice Whale Regulations: There’s still a “long way to go” in deciding whether the federal government will designate a critical habitat area for the Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico, according to U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville from Auburn.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rejected a petition from environmental groups, which aimed to establish a 10-knot speed limit in the Gulf of Mexico. This proposal, if approved, would have impacted tourism and industry in Alabama. The rejection was supported by all members of Alabama’s House and Senate delegations.

Despite this favorable outcome, Tuberville emphasized that there’s more work ahead. He expressed satisfaction with NOAA rejecting part of the Biden Administration’s regulatory agenda but highlighted concerns about designating a Critical Habitat for the Rice’s whale in the expansive Gulf of Mexico.

Tuberville pointed out potential challenges and restrictions that such a designation might impose on vessel traffic, particularly in and out of the Port of Mobile in Mobile, AL. The Port of Mobile is a significant economic driver, covering over 4,000 acres, providing jobs, tax impacts, and substantial economic value to Alabama.

“I will continue to fight back against Joe Biden’s attempts to make us reliant on our enemies for energy when we can be producing it right here in the United States, and especially in Alabama,” Tuberville affirmed. The senator remains committed to addressing regulatory concerns and advocating for the interests of Alabama, particularly in energy production and economic development.

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Our Reader’s Queries

What is the critical habitat rule for rice’s whales?

The whales are living in the exact area that’s being considered for critical habitat. This area covers about 28,270.65 square miles of continental shelf and slope waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the speed limit for rice whales?

NOAA Fisheries has rejected a request from various non-government organizations to implement a mandatory 10-knot speed limit and other measures for vessels in order to safeguard endangered Rice’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico. The agency has decided not to move forward with the process of creating new rules at this moment.

What is the proposal for the rice whale?

On July 24, 2023, NMFS issued a draft rule to mark important habitat for the endangered Rice’s whale ( Balaenoptera ricei) under the ESA (88 FR 47453).

What are the threats to the rice’s whale?

The tiny population and narrow range of Rice’s whales make them more at risk from various threats. These include energy exploration and development, oil spills and how to handle them, vessel collisions, ocean noise, ocean debris, aquaculture, and getting caught in fishing gear.

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