Feds Propose Closure Of Fishing Grounds For Training

OCEAN CITY — Concerns have been raised over a federal agency planning to close a vast area of open ocean off the coast from late April to early May for specialized training and systems testing.

Earlier this month, the Federal Registry posted a notice of the proposed closure and opened a public comment period. In February, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) informed the Coast Guard is will be conducting U.S. government training and systems testing from April 25 through May 8. The training and testing will take place in two locations off the coast of Ocean City, according to the Federal Register listing.

“The Captain of the Port Maryland-National Capital Region had determined that a security zone is needed for waterborne protection of the public, mitigation of potential terrorist acts, and the enhancing of public and maritime safety and security in order to safeguard life, property and the environment on or near the navigable waters near Ocean City, Maryland,” the Federal Register listing reads.

According to the Federal Register listing, the security zone will be established off the coast of Ocean City from 9 a.m. on April 25 through 10 p.m. on May 8. The security zone will be enforced from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. on each day of the two-week closure. The security zone is roughly 9.3 nautical miles in length and 3.6 nautical miles in width.

It’s a little cryptic just what the NGA does. According to its website, the agency “delivers world-class geospatial intelligence that provides a decisive advantage to policymakers, military service members, intelligence professionals and first-responders”

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The NGA website also states “anyone who sails a U.S. ship, flies a U.S. aircraft, makes national policy decisions, fights wars, located targets, responds to natural disasters or even navigates with a cell phone relies on NGA.”

The proposed closure comes right in the heart of the spring fishing season locally. The Federal Register invites interested parties and stakeholders to submit written comments on the proposed closure and Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star this week said the local fishing community is taking the agency up on the offer.

“It’s going to close a pretty big slice of bottom close to Ocean City,” he said. “It blocks off pretty much everything to the east. The public comment period is open, and the boys are commenting.”

Comments can be submitted to www.regulations.gov in the public participation and requests for comment section. The public comment period is open until April 15.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.