Territorial governors seek comment period extension for threatened coral
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The governors of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam have requested the US National Marine Fisheries Service to provide an additional 90-days for public comments on the proposed rule to designate critical habitat for seven threatened corals in US waters in the Indio-Pacific.
“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.
“Our governments were not consulted in advance of the proposed rule and require the additional time to review the rule and associated supporting documents,” the letter said and noted that the proposal “encompasses 230 square miles of shallow water areas surrounding the islands in our jurisdictions, with most of the propose designated area occurring within Territorial and Commonwealth waters”.
The letter, signed by American Samoa Gov. Lemanu P.S Mauga, CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Guam Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, was included in Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata’s Feb. 3rd correspondent to Paul Doremus, the Acting Assistant Administrator for Fishers at NMFS.
“I support the Governors collective request for an extension in order to provide the most information in the process, so all of the impacted Pacific Territories’ may fully register their views and the most informed decisions can be made,” Uifa’atali wrote.
NMFS’s proposed rule was issued Nov. 27, 2020 - and published on the Federal Register as well as the federal portal [www.regulations.gov] - where the public can submit comments and the comment period ended Jan. 26th this year.
Late month, the comment period was extended for 30-days to Feb. 25th. At the same time, NMFS scheduled virtual public hearings for all three territories — between Jan. 19th and Jan. 21st.
To submit comments online to the federal government to go: www.regulations.gov and search - NOAA-NMFS-2016-0131-0001 — which also provide full details of the proposed rule.