Marine Technology Showcase in Washington, D.C. Illustrates How Technology Can Help Protect the North Atlantic Right Whale

On April 11, NMMA hosted a marine technology showcase on Capitol Hill to demonstrate to Members of Congress and Congressional staff the existing and emerging sophisticated technologies available to lessen the risk of vessel strikes to marine mammals with particular focus on the North Atlantic right whale. The full-day event, which took place on both the House and Senate sides of the Capitol and included a Congressional Boating Caucus briefing, came as federal regulators consider the finalization of the expanded 2008 North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction rule.

The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) population faces considerable challenges, and vessel strikes – especially large vessels over 260 feet – have been identified as a source of mortality to the species. The recreational marine industry, in conjunction with technology, modeling, communications, and software companies, have been working together to take immediate action on the development and deployment of various tools that can be leveraged to reduce vessel strike risk and to provide real-time information to vessel operators to improve their awareness of management measures and the present of NARWs.

The purpose of the marine technology showcase was to inform members of Congress and policy makers on this important work, how it can be supported, and what technologies are both available and operational for use today to reduce the risk of vessel strikes.

Representatives from Fathom Science, Garmin, SEA.AI, National Marine Electronic Association (NMEA), Navico, Viam, Viking, and Whale Seeker presented on the groundbreaking technologies that can help predict, monitor, and detect marine mammals and lessen the risk of vessel strikes. The representatives outlined how risk reduction is an ongoing process that has been accelerated given concerns over the NARW status.

Technology holds significant advantages in efforts to protect the NARWs, and the recreational marine industry is uniquely positioned to advance these risk reduction tools given its work in vessel safety and collision avoidance over the past 50 years.

As SEA.AI wrote in their press release on the event:

“This gathering highlights the important collaboration between technologists and legislators in advancing maritime safety and protecting the environment. Legislative support for technologies such as machine vision is crucial for boosting maritime safety and protecting ecosystems. SEA.AI's AI-based lookout illustrates how new technologies can make significant positive contributions in these domains, emphasizing the importance of policies and regulations that foster such innovations. The partnership between technology creators and policymakers is essential to ensure the protection and sustainability of our oceans for the future.”

At the same time the recreational marine industry continues to collaborate and develop additional tools to reduce risk of vessel strikes, NMMA urges for the withdrawal of the proposed rule. On-board technology can create a better performance environment for both boaters and regulators that increases safety, protects endangered marine wildlife, and ensures that both can co-exist while significantly reducing risks that current approaches cannot achieve.

For more information, please contact NMMA vice president of government relations, Callie Hoyt, at [email protected].