News & Updates

Seaport Spotlight: Rep. Danny Alvarez

Joe Biden Administration Wants to Shut Down Port Tampa Bay, 3 Others and Fine Boaters $20k for Boating Over 11 MPH

The Joe Biden administration is taking draconian steps that will effectively shutter four of Florida’s Gulf Coast seaports, and fine boaters, including commercial fishermen who travel Gulf of Mexico waters, $20,000 for boating over 11 miles per hour.

At the urging of some extreme environmental groups, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has proposed the most restrictive regulations on all navigable waters in the Gulf of Mexico to protect about 50 “newly” discovered whales.

The whales, known as the Rice’s whales, is a seldom-seen whale that NOAA’s scientists state only traverses U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico region. Under their proposal, boat traffic, including cargo ships that transport food, fuel and medical supplies to Gulf Coast seaports, would be forbidden from traveling at night, and daytime boating speeds would be limited to 10 knots – that’s about 11 MPH.

The effect would be a near shutdown of Port Tampa Bay, SeaPort Manatee, Port Panama City and Port of Pensacola.

To be honest, NOAA’s proposed rules smell fishy.

It’s difficult for me to see how potentially jeopardizing Florida’s public safety, our nation’s security, and Florida’s economy will be friendly to our state’s environment. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it appears to be more about politics than protecting a “new” whale – a whale that no third-party organization has verified as a new species.

As a member of the Florida House of Representatives, my support of Florida’s environment is solid and longstanding. I recognize that Florida’s natural resources are one of our greatest attributes that must be vigorously protected, but this is political overreach targeting Florida and our stances in the past.

The proposed rule issued by NOAA cites a paucity of flawed scientific evidence and unsubstantiated sources to support their draconian efforts. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Biden Administration has used overarching or unreliable evidence. The National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) branch of NOAA has had its efforts to prohibit fishing activities by Maine lobstermen and survey efforts on marine mammals in the Gulf rejected by the courts.

Now is not the time for a federal agency to seek overarching regulations on the entire Gulf of Mexico. We have seen what happens when U.S. infrastructure is not prepared for changes in supply chain logistics. Cargo traffic continues to grow in the Gulf of Mexico to ensure that U.S. and Florida businesses are prepared to meet the needs of all U.S. citizens. Cargo ships travel 24 hours a day, and Florida’s fuel is transported via cargo vessels. Florida’s fuel supply will be put in jeopardy by these efforts. This will be especially troubling following hurricanes and tropical storms.

Now is not the time for NOAA (or the Biden administration) to jeopardize Florida’s environment with unverified science and highly restrictive regulations. Instead, NOAA should engage with Florida’s seaports and our state’s fishing industry, to learn how we can work together to protect both the environment and our state.

Rep. Danny Alvarez serves House District 69, which includes much of Hillsborough County.