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The Coast Guard recently raised its "Assumed Average Weight Per Person" standard to 185 pounds, reflecting the growing waistlines of the American populace. The number — which is 25 pounds higher than the previous average — is used to the determine the safe operating capacity of passenger boats around the country. The change may force tour operators, ferry services, and other charter companies to adjust the capacity of their vessels or risk failing their next Coast Guard inspection.

The previous AAWPP was 160 pounds, but that figure was established in 1960 and remained unchanged despite data from the Centers for Disease Control that Americans are getting substantially heavier. Most commercial boat owners say they rarely operate at full capacity and don't expect much change in their day-to-day operations, but the official upgrade is yet another signal that the stomachs of the average American just ain't what they used to be.

The new rules actually went into effect on December 1, but are getting extra attention this week after several reports from the Seattle area (where ferries are integral part of life) got picked up by The New York Times. But in the ongoing spirit of changing of the law and the changing of the year, check out the Top 11 Coast Guard Rescues of 2011.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.