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President’s signature is boon for boaters

In a victory for the American boating public, President Bush signed into law the Clean Boating Act of 2008 (S. 2766), exempting the more than 17 million recreational boats from federal marine discharge regulations aimed at commercial vessels.

“The recreational marine industry and boaters throughout the U.S. can now rest easy and go boating without a federal or state permit, heavy penalties and absurd legal jeopardy,” says Scott Gudes, National Marine Manufacturers Association vice president of government relations.

Introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Representatives Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Candice Miller (R-Mich.), the Clean Boating Act permanently and fully restores a common sense regulation that excludes recreational boaters and anglers from the Clean Water Act federal and state permitting system. Without legislative relief, the Environmental Protection Agency was set to implement new permitting regulations for boaters by Oct. 1. Congress passed the Clean Boating Act July 22, and the President signed it into law July 30.

One week earlier, President Bush signed into law the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008, which gives the federal government greater power in preventing and controlling air pollution from ships.

We still love seafood; we’re just eating less

Americans ate an average of 16.3 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2007, a 1 percent decline from 2006 consumption figures of 16.5 pounds, according to a NOAA Fisheries Service study. Americans consumed a total of 4.908 billion pounds of seafood last year, down slightly from 4.944 billion pounds. The United States continues to be ranked the third largest consumer of fish and shellfish, behind China and Japan.

Of the total pounds of seafood consumed per person, Americans ate 12.1 pounds of fresh and frozen finfish and shellfish, including 5 pounds of fillets and steaks — for example, Alaskan pollock, salmon, flounder and cod. Canned seafood — primarily tuna — remains at 3.9 pounds per person. Cured seafood, such as smoked salmon and dried cod, accounts for the remaining 0.3 pounds. Shrimp remains the seafood of choice.

The United States imports about 84 percent of its seafood, though imports accounted for only 63 percent of U.S. seafood just a decade ago. “While NOAA works to end overfishing and rebuild wild fish stocks, the U.S. also needs more sustainable domestic aquaculture to help meet consumer demand for healthy seafood and narrow the foreign trade gap,” says Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

‘Ghost boat’ is no crime scene

A crewless sailing catamaran found adrift in April 2007 off the Great Barrier Reef continues to be the subject of an Australian investigation. Kaz II was found with its shredded sails up, lights on, diesel running and food on the galley table, but with none of the three crewmembers on board.

As an inquest continued in August, a forensics police officer told investigators no evidence of foul play had been found aboard the boat. The wallets of all three men — each containing money — were found on board, along with a shotgun and ammunition still padlocked in its case. Investigators also heard from the former owner, who sold the vessel to one of the missing men, Peter Tunstead. He told investigators the crew seemed “anxious” over preparations for their departure, including trouble with a laptop that contained digital charts.

The skipper’s log includes statements that he was unable to figure out how to operate the boat’s GPS system, including the inability to input waypoints. One entry released during the inquest reportedly reads: “Spent rest of night trying to plot waypoints and route, no luck. … I am trying to read GPS book so as we can make an auto route. No luck.” Tunstead also recorded problems with the jib.