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NMFS extends comment period on critical coral habitat

US National Marine Fisheries Service logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a notice published through the Federal Register, the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced this week that it is extending for another 30-days — through Mar. 27th — the public comment period for its proposed rule, to designate critical habitat for seven threatened corals in U.S. waters in the Indo-Pacific.

American Samoa Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Guam Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero — sent a joint letter last month to NMFS seeking 90-days for public comments. The initial comment period of 30-days ended Jan. 26 and was then extended to Feb. 25th.

“The designation has the potential to impact a wide range of activities necessary to maintain our island economies and infrastructure,” the governors’ wrote in a joint Jan. 19th letter to Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for Fisheries at NMFS. The governors argued that their respective governments were not consulted in advance of the proposed rule.

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata and a handful of others also supported the 90-day extended comment period.

In extending the comment period to Mar. 27th, NMFS said that during two virtual public hearings on Jan. 19 and 21st, “we received several requests to... extend the public comment period, to allow the public to adequately review the extensive supporting materials for the proposed rule in order to formulate public comments.”

Similarly, on Jan. 26th, NMFS received a letter from the Governors of CNMI, Guam, and American Samoa requesting extension of the public comment period for the same reason.