Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Thursday questioned Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., the President’s nominee to be U.S. Coast Guard Commandant. She asked about the problems small tour boat operators and fishing guides have been experiencing with current Coast Guard licensing regulations.
Papp assured Klobuchar that he would work towards a sensible solution that would not unduly burden recreational boaters. Klobuchar highlighted the importance of fishing and tourism to Minnesota’s economy and culture during the Senate Commerce committee hearing.
Klobuchar said, “Safety and security is paramount but common sense should also be a part of our regulations.” She added that Minnesota has a lot of small business owners who rely on fishing and tourism for survival, and the current requirements are too restrictive for recreational boaters.
Recently, the U.S. Coast Guard unexpectedly announced it would begin to enforce Operators of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) licensing requirements for operators of vessels for hire in federally navigable waters that carry six or fewer passengers. That would include border lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
To obtain an OUPV license, the boater must complete a background check and security screening, and take an exam to prove their proficiency in vessel navigation and safety. Small tour operators and fishing guides have raised concerns about their ability to afford an OUPV license as the necessary coursework and licensing fees could cost up to $1500 per boater.
Klobuchar pointed out that sport and recreation fishing contributes roughly $2.8 billion to Minnesota’s economy every year.
Officials from Coast Guard Region Nine were scheduled to meet with Minnesota DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten and Sen. Klobuchar’s staff to discuss options to achieve maritime safety and security without threatening small business fishing guides and tour operators.