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NMFS — again — extends comment period on critical coral habitat

Nat'l Marine Fisheries Service logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Following a request from fisheries officials in the US Pacific territories and others, the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has — again — extended the public comment period, for its proposed rule, to designate critical habitat for seven threatened corals in U.S. waters in the Indo-Pacific.

The seven Indo- Pacific corals listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) within U.S. waters in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), American Samoa, and the Pacific Remote Island Area (PRIA), according to NMFS.

NMFS between January and last month extended the comment period three times. A joint letter from the governors of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas and Guam in January had requested an extension. The governors argued that designation has the potential to impact a wide range of activities necessary to maintain our island economies and infrastructure. Additionally, their respective governments were not consulted in advance of the proposed rule.

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata Radewagen and others also sought to extend the comment period, which NMFS extended to Mar. 26th.

In a new notice published last week on the federal portal — — NMFS says that on Mar. 12th, the federal agency received a letter from the directors of the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Lands and Natural Resources, and Guam Department of Agriculture requesting additional time for public comments to provide the Territories and NMFS time to gather the best available scientific information on the listed corals to inform the final coral critical habitat rule.

“In response, we are extending the public comment period by another 60 days, and are accepting public comments for the proposed rule through May 26, 2021,” says NMFS.