Protected Species Updates

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FR Notice – Protective Regulations for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins under the MMPA

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to prohibit swimming with and approaching a Hawaiian spinner dolphin within 50 yards (45.7 m) (for persons, vessels, and objects), including approach by interception. These proposed regulatory measures are intended to prevent take of Hawaiian spinner dolphins from occurring in marine areas where viewing pressures are most prevalent; prohibitions would apply in waters within 2 nautical miles (nm; 3.7 km) of the Hawaiian Islands and in the waters between the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe. This proposed rule to establish 50-yard swim-with and approach regulations would help ensure public compliance by providing clear notice of prohibited conduct that results in take, including harassment and disturbance.
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Press Release – Fishery Management Council Acts on CNMI Request to Help with Sea Turtle, Shark Issues

COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLAND (7 March 2016) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council today in Saipan responded to the request by  Victor Hocog, Acting Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), for  assistance to address sea turtle regulations impacting the people of the commonwealth. The National  Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently divided the world’s green sea turtles into distinct population segments (DPSs) and moved the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of green sea turtles  found in the CNMI and Guam from a threatened to an endangered status. Green sea turtles are  traditional food for indigenous communities throughout the Pacific. The new listing impedes aspirations for a cultural take.
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FR Notice – Final Rule To List Eleven Distinct Population Segments of the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings Under the Endangered Species Act

SUMMARY: NMFS and USFWS issue a final rule to list 11 distinct population segments (DPSs) of the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas; hereafter referred to as the green turtle) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on the best available scientific and commercial data, and after considering comments on the proposed rule, we have determined that three DPSs are endangered species and eight DPSs are threatened species. This rule supersedes the 1978 final listing rule for green turtles. It applies the existing protective regulations to the DPSs. Critical habitat is not determinable at this time but will be proposed in a future rulemaking. In the interim, the existing critical habitat designation (i.e., waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico) remains in effect for the North Atlantic DPS.
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Final Rule Published for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Critical Habitat

On August 21, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced the final rule to revise critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals. Critical habitat triggers consultation requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for actions that are authorized, funded or carried out by Federal agencies. The revised critical habitat goes into effect September 21, 2015.

In the main Hawaiian Islands, the monk seal critical habitat includes the seafloor and marine habitat to 10 meters or approximately 33 feet above the seafloor from the 200-meter depth contour through the shoreline and extending into terrestrial habitat 5 meters or approximately 16.5 feet inland from the shoreline between identified boundary points around Kaula Island, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui Nui (including Kahoolawe, Lanai, Maui, and Molokai), and Hawaii. The marine portion of the critical habitat only includes the area 10 meters from the seafloor and does not include the remainder of the water column.

In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the critical habitat includes all beach areas, sand spits and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland as well as the seafloor and marine habitat 10 m in height above the seafloor from the shoreline out to the 200-m depth contour around 10 atolls, islands and reefs.
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Comment Period on the Green Turtle ESA-Listing Proposed Rule Extended to September 25, 2015

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a third extension on the public comment period on the proposed rule to revise the green turtle listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The extension is due to a recent typhoon in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Public comments will be due on September 25, 2015.

To read the full notice on the comment period extension, go to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/08/26/2015-21150/endangered-and-threatened-species-identification-and-proposed-listing-of-eleven-distinct-population

For more information about the proposed rule, read the original post: http://www.wpcouncil.org/2015/03/20/nmfs-and-fws-announces-response-to-green-turtle-delisting-petition/

To submit public comment on this proposed rule, go to this website and click on the “Comment Now!” icon: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0154

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NMFS and FWS Extends Comment Period on the Green Turtle ESA-Listing Proposed Rule

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced an extension on the public comment period on the proposed rule to revise the green turtle listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Public comments will be due on August 26, 2015.

To read the full notice on the comment period extension, click here.

For more information about the proposed rule, read the original post: http://www.wpcouncil.org/2015/03/20/nmfs-and-fws-announces-response-to-green-turtle-delisting-petition/

To submit public comment on this proposed rule, go to this website and click on the “Comment Now!” icon: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0154

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Press Release – Federal Fishery Managers Question Proposed Rule on Green Sea Turtles, Address Allocation of US Tuna Catches

HONOLULU (18 June 2015) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council today in Honolulu  heard a series of recommendations from its advisory groups opposing and questioning the March 20, 2015, proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the green sea turtle population in Hawai’i waters as threatened and the populations in waters around American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 
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Press Release – Federal Fishery Managers Finalize Main Hawaiian Islands Deep-Water Bottomfish Catch Limit Recommendations, Voice Opposition to Humpback Whale Sanctuary Expansion

HONOLULU (17 June 2015) The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council  today in Honolulu recommended that the annual catch limits (ACLs) for seven prized species of deep-water bottomfish (known locally as the Deep 7) caught in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) be set 326,000 pounds for fishing year 2015-2016; 318,000 pounds for 2016-17; and 306,000 pounds for 2017-18. The fishing year for the MHI Deep 7 begins September 1 and ends on August 31 the year following. The recommendations will be forwarded to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval.

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NMFS and FWS Announce Additional Public Hearings and Extension of Comment Period on the Green Turtle ESA-Listing Proposed Rule

On June 17, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced additional public hearings and extension of comment period on the proposed rule to revise the green turtle listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The public hearings will be held as follows:

July 6, 2015, 6-8pm (informational open house starting at 5:30pm)
American Samoa Community College Lecture Hall, Pago Pago, American Samoa

July 13, 2015, 6-8pm (informational open house starting at 5:30pm)
Multipurpose Center, Saipan, CNMI

July 15, 2015, 6-8pm (informational open house starting at 5:30pm)
University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration Multipurpose Room, Mangilao, Guam

There are no additional hearings scheduled for Hawaii. The public comment period is extended through July 27, 2015.

To read the full notice on the comment period extension, click here:

For more information about the proposed rule, read the original post: http://www.wpcouncil.org/2015/03/20/nmfs-and-fws-announces-response-to-green-turtle-delisting-petition/

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NMFS and FWS Announce Response to Green Turtle Delisting Petition

On March 20, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the 12-month finding and proposed rule in response to the 2012 petition to delist the Hawaii green turtle from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NMFS and FWS have denied the delisting petition after finding that the Hawaii population, while qualifying as a distinct population segment (DPS) called the Central North Pacific DPS, should continue to be listed as “threatened” due to its small and narrowly distributed nesting population and threats of climate change and sea level rise. The proposal will publish in the Federal Register on Monday, March 23, 2015.

The proposed rule will also change the status of green turtles in American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from its current threatened listing to “endangered.” Guam and CNMI green turtles are considered part of a population called the Central Western Pacific DPS, and American Samoa part of the Central South Pacific DPS.

A public hearing is scheduled in Honolulu on April 8, 2015, 6-8pm at the Japanese Cultural Center, but no hearings are currently scheduled in the outer islands in Hawaii or in American Samoa, Guam or CNMI.

The proposed rule is open for public comment for 90-days until June 22, 2015.

To read the full proposed rule, see: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/23/2015-06136/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-identification-and-proposed-listing-of-eleven-distinct

The status review that provides the scientific basis for the decision is available here: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/documents/2015_green_turtle__chelonia_mydas__status_review_under_the_u.s._endangered_species_act.pdf

To read the NMFS press release, see: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/20150320-successful-conservation-efforts-along-florida-pacific-coasts-recognized-in-revised-esa-listing-of-green-sea-turtle.html