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ASG requests extension for comments on NOAA’s proposal rule on green sea turtle habitat

Lt. Gov. Talauega E.V. Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Acting Governor Talauega E.V. Ale has shared American Samoa’s concerns with the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over a rule proposed by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to designate marine critical habitat for six “distinct population segments of green sea turtles” and has requested to extend the public comment period, which ended on Oct. 17.

The proposed critical habitat areas encompass most near-shore areas between the mean high water line to 20 meters depth, and over 2,700 acres of sandy beaches across the U.S. Pacific Islands region including Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, according to a Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council public document.

Talauega outlined his concerns regarding the Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Designation in an Oct. 17 letter to Janet Coit, the NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries and to Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

“On behalf of the people of American Samoa, we are deeply committed to the conservation and protection of our environment and its inhabitants,” said Talauega who noted with appreciation, efforts made by NOAA to “protect and preserve our marine ecosystems, particularly in relation to the Green Sea Turtle.”

 However, he requested that an extension be granted and certain critical tasks completed before closing the public comment period, saying that an extension is necessary to ensure that the decisions made regarding the Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Designation “are well-informed, inclusive, and transparent.”

Specifically, Talauega requested an update to the 1998 Green Sea Turtle Recovery Plan and 5-Year GST Status Report, development of a more inclusive and comprehensive public outreach effort, and an additional 90-day public comment period.

“It is imperative that a revised recovery plan and an overdue 5-year status report be completed before any final decisions regarding the Green Sea Turtle's designation are made,” said Talauega.

He argued that these documents provide crucial insights into the current state of Green Sea Turtle populations and the measures necessary for their conservation. “This will allow for a thorough and up-to-date analysis, ensuring that the most accurate and relevant data inform your decisions,” he points out.

Talauega suggested that NOAA and USFWS develop a more “Inclusive and Comprehensive Public Outreach Effort”, saying that it is essential to engage and educate the residents of the affected islands about the proposed regulatory actions.

He recommended that a comprehensive public outreach effort should be undertaken to ensure that all stakeholders have a thorough understanding of the implications of these actions.

“This includes not only the scientific community but also local communities whose lives and livelihoods may be affected. An extension will provide the time needed to design and implement an inclusive and effective outreach program,” he said.

Additionally, the outer islands of Manu'a have not been consulted during this designation process and their views have not been properly considered.

Talauega requested that the federal government conduct an additional public comment period. He said that in the “interest of transparency and public participation, I request that an additional 90-day public comment period be held after the completion of the above actions.”

“This will allow all interested parties, including scientists, conservationists, residents, and other stakeholders, to provide valuable input and feedback on the proposed regulatory actions,” he explained. “An extension will ensure that this vital step in the decision-making process is carried out with the necessary diligence.”

Talauega said he understands the importance of making informed and responsible decisions regarding the Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Designation, and believes that the requested extension is essential to achieve this goal.

“It is our hope that NOAA will consider our request and grant an extension to allow for the completion of these critical actions,” he said and noted that he looks forward to a positive response from NOAA and remain committed to supporting efforts that ensure the long-term survival and well-being of the Green Sea Turtle.

As of yesterday morning, there’s no public information available yet as to whether NOAA will grant Talauega’s request. The acting governor’s letter was publicly released on the federal portal ( along with other public comments received.

According to online public documents, the USFWS held five public hearings in August, including one on Tutuila island for the proposed rule. The other sites were Hawaii, Guam, Saipan in Northern Mariana Islands, and the North and South Atlantic area covering Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.