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NMFS Solicits Input on Developing Take Prohibition Regulations for Newly Listed Coral Species

On January 13, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for developing take prohibition regulations for coral species listed as threatened  under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in September 2014.

Species listed by NMFS as threatened do not automatically receive protective regulations. The newly listed coral species (6 occurring in American Samoa, 3 in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and none in Hawaii) currently do not have any take prohibitions applied, meaning that take (defined under the ESA as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct”) is not a violation under the ESA at this time.

NMFS is now considering whether take prohibition is necessary and advisable for the conservation of the newly listed coral species. Under section 4(d) of the ESA, NMFS has flexibility to tailor protective regulations based on the contributions of other existing conservation measures, and regulations may prohibit some or all of the activities that constitute as take.

NMFS is soliciting public input to help determine what, if any, protective regulations are necessary and advisable, including information that will help understand and analyze impacts of various activities, the existence and efficacy of ongoing conservation activities, and prohibitions that are both necessary and advisable to reduce threats. Specific information solicited includes:

  1. Current or planned activities within the range of these species and their possible impact on these species;
  2. Impacts within the species’ ranges that fall within any of the nine major threat categories (Ocean warming, disease, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, predation, trophic effects of fishing, and collection and trade);
  3. Information on which of the ESA section 9(a)(1) prohibitions on take are necessary and advisable for the conservation of these species, with associated justification;
  4. Specific activities that should be prohibited for the conservation of the 20 coral species, with associated justification;
  5. Specific activities that should be excepted from any prohibitions that may be applied because they either provide a conservation benefit or do not detract from the conservation of these species, with associated justification;
  6. Existing permitting programs that may already provide for the conservation of listed corals through their activity evaluation and permitting process, with associated justification; and
  7. Economic costs and benefits likely to result from protective regulations.

To submit comments and to learn more about this announcement, read the Federal Register Notice here .

To learn more about the listed corals, visit the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office website at: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_listed_coral.html