[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 52 (Friday, March 18, 2005)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 13151-13152]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-5346]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 050304058-5058-01; I.D. No. 060204C]
RIN 0648-XB29


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List Elkhorn Coral, Staghorn coral, and Fused-staghorn 
coral as Threatened or Endangered

AGENCY:  National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:  Notice of petition finding and availability of a status review 
document.

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SUMMARY:  NMFS announces a 12-month finding on a petition to add the 
elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), staghorn coral (A. cervicornis), and 
fused-staghorn coral (A. prolifera), throughout their known range, to 
the list of threatened and endangered wildlife and to designate 
critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on a 
review of the best available scientific and commercial information on 
the status of the species, NMFS finds that the petitioned action is 
warranted with respect to elkhorn and staghorn corals and will promptly 
publish a proposed rule to list these two species as threatened. 
Furthermore, NMFS concludes that listing fused-staghorn coral is not 
warranted as it is a hybrid and does not constitute a species.

DATES:  The finding announced in this document was made on March 3, 
2005.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Atlantic Acropora status review document are 
available upon request from the Protected Resources Division, NMFS, 
9721 Executive Center Drive North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. After 
March 17, 2005, please direct requests to our new address: 263 13th 
Ave. South, St. Peterburg, FL 33701. The status review is also 
available on the NMFS website at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/
protres.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Ms. Jennifer Moore or Dr. Stephania 
Bolden, NMFS Southeast Region, 727-570-5312, or Ms. Marta Nammack, HQ 
Office of Protected Resources, 301-713-1401, ext. 180. Please note the 
NMFS Southeast Regional Office is moving March 17, 2005 and after March 
21, 2005, the new telephone exchange will be 727-824-5312.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), for any petition to revise the List of 
Endangered or Threatened Wildlife and Plants which presents substantial 
scientific and commercial information, NMFS is required to make a 
finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of the petition on 
whether the petitioned action is (a) not warranted, (b) warranted, or 
(c) warranted but precluded from immediate proposal by other pending 
proposals of higher priority.
    On March 4, 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) 
petitioned NMFS to list elkhorn (Acropora palmata), staghorn (A. 
cervicornis), and fused-staghorn (A. prolifera) coral as either 
threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to 
designate critical habitat. On June 23, 2004, NMFS made a positive 90-
day finding (69 FR 34995) that the CBD presented substantial 
information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted and 
announced the initiation of a formal status review as required by 
section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA.
    In order to conduct a comprehensive review, NMFS convened an 
Atlantic Acropora Biological Review Team (BRT) to conduct the status 
review, which incorporates and summarizes the best available scientific 
and commercial data to date. It addresses the status of the species, 
the five ESA listing factors, and current regulatory, conservation and 
research efforts that may yield protection. The BRT also reviewed and 
considered materials received by NMFS as a result of a Federal Register 
notice and public meetings; substantive materials were incorporated 
into the status review. Copies of the status review are available upon 
request from the Protected Resources Division, NMFS (see ADDRESSES). 
NMFS finds that with respect to elkhorn and staghorn corals, the 
petitioned action is warranted at this time. NMFS will promptly publish 
a proposed rule to list these two species as threatened. Furthermore, 
NMFS concludes that listing fused-staghorn coral is not warranted as it 
is a hybrid and does not constitute a species.
    According to section 4(b)(3(B) of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 4(b)(3)(B), 
when a petitioned action is warranted, a proposed regulation to 
implement the action shall be promptly published in the Federal 
Register. NMFS will immediately begin developing a proposed rule to 
list the two species as threatened to comply with the ESA's requirement 
to publish the proposed listing rule promptly. NMFS will also

[[Page 13152]]

begin contacting and coordinating with State/Territory and NOAA 
resource managers to identify activities that may adversely affect the 
species and potential take exemptions that should be identified in a 
4(d) rule, as necessary to provide for the conservation of these 
threatened species.
    After publication of a proposed rule to list the species and 
establish protective regulations, regulations at 50 CFR 424.16 specify 
that NMFS allow for public comments regarding the proposed rule and 
hold public hearings if requested. Within 1 year of publishing the 
proposed listing regulation, a final rule to list the species, a notice 
extending the 1-year period, or a notice withdrawing the proposed 
listing must be published in the Federal Register.
    The ESA requires that a final rule designating critical habitat of 
an endangered or threatened species shall be, to the maximum extent 
prudent, published concurrently with the final rule listing the species 
(ESA 4(a)(3)(A)). If at that time critical habitat is undeterminable, 
the period may be extended by not more than 1 additional year.

Authority

    The authority for this section is the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 11, 2005.
William T. Hogarth,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries,National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 05-5346 Filed 3-14-05; 4:33 pm]
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