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Can You Take the Heat?

Can it ever be too hot, according to federal regulations, for a dealer’s service team to work outside on a boat? Or will a failure to maintain a mandated workplace temperature mean employees can go home? It’s not for certain, but such proposed legislation is indicative of the current trend to increasing regulations on businesses.

While not aimed specifically at the marine industry, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has authored a bill that could have an impact. The “Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2021” would “direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an occupational safety and health standard to protect workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses.”

The bill is reportedly supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council and several unions, including the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. It would instruct OSHA to set standards that include:

• limiting the duration workers can be exposed to heat

• requiring access to water

• providing paid breaks in cool spaces

And while heat stress is most often associated with outdoor jobs, indoor workers, such as warehouse personnel, can be subjected to high temperatures.

While this bill isn’t that hot yet, so to speak, it reflects a move to both repeal and increase regulatory actions on businesses, and is another reason for dealers and their marine trade associations to remain alert.

Preserve fish and take the heat!

Anything that improves recreational fishing leads to more dealer sales because 70 percent of all boats are used for angling at least some of the time. But such actions can produce some controversy and even negative publicity.

Chesapeake Bay is a case in point. The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas recently teamed up with 10 national and 10 Virginia-based groups to urge Gov. Glenn Youngkin to end menhaden reduction fishing in the Bay and support recreational fishing for striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and other key species. The annual commercial harvest of more than 100 million pounds of menhaden by foreign-owned Omega Protein deprives gamefish of a critical food source. Moreover, the Chesapeake is considered the most important striped bass nursery on the East Coast.

The coalition, representing thousands of anglers and conservationists, wants reduction fishing ended in the Bay until science shows that it isn’t having an impact on fish and habitat.

“Large-scale reduction fishing is outlawed by every other state on the East Coast,” says Steve Atkinson, president of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association. “Our recreational striped bass fishery alone annually drives $166 million in economic activity in Virginia. However, that has declined by over 50 percent in the past decade. Our members have witnessed years of weakening in our striped bass, and there is a clear causal relation to the menhaden reduction industry in the Bay.”

But sometimes good actions don’t go as expected. From New York, here’s an example:

“Sharks are treating New York waters like a restaurant, and the state government is the maître d’,” quipped Katherine Donlevy in the New York Post. She was reporting about shark problems off Long Island.

Specifically, great whites and other sharks are coming close to Long Island beaches this year, feasting on a desirable baitfish now flourishing in New York waters: menhaden. In passing restrictive legislation, the New York General Assembly unanimously declared menhaden protected as a “major food source” that had been wiped out to less than 10 percent of historic levels.

“Now the sharks are swimming into shore after menhaden like tourists bellying up to a buffet,” wrote Donlevy, “and they are coming close to bathers — with disastrous results.”

Six beachgoers have been bitten, including a teen surfer. There’s been a slew of shark sightings and a dead 6- to 8-year-old shark washed up on a beach.

In passing the legislation, lawmakers admit they didn’t see the possibility that it would increase beachgoers vs. sharks. To offset public concern, the state has deployed patrol boats, drones and choppers, plus increasing lifeguard staffs by 25 percent, particularly along the south shore of Long Island.

Criticisms notwithstanding, when menhaden stocks suffer, so do coastal economies in more than a dozen states where thousands of dealers and recreational fishing businesses rely on healthy fisheries. But even good actions are often never easy!

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