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Is Big Brother targeting boaters now?

It seems like at every turn these days the federal government is trying to institute policies that create more hurdles for boaters. Last fall we learned that a federal court decision could and, now, is leading to a federal permitting process for recreational boat discharge.

More recently we discovered that the Department of Homeland Security is discussing the idea of mandatory licensing for boaters. The proposal is generating considerable debate among boating interests – like the heated exchange of press releases between BoatU.S. and Sea Tow International. The subject also is appearing on other industry blogs.

The federal government is trying to use boater safety as well as national security to justify the mandatory licensing. A small recreational vessel could do serious damage to our naval arsenal here at home – remember the U.S.S. Cole. And who could argue with the merits of legislation that requires boaters to become educated and tested on safety before being issued a license?

The main complaint among boating circles, however, isn’t whether or not there should be mandatory education and licensing; most agree these thing benefit boating by making it safer. Rather, the debate seems to be whether or not this should be up to the federal government.

Is it in our best interest to have the federal government – known for its bloated bureaucracy – create and oversee a national boater licensing program? Or, should we continue to leave it up to the states, a growing number of which are passing their own mandatory boater education laws?

What are your thoughts?

Melanie Winters
Associate Editor
Soundings Trade Only

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