[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 74 (Tuesday, April 17, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 22749-22750]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9243]



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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

RIN 0648-XT12


Petition To List 83 Species of Coral as Threatened or Endangered 
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of reports, request for information, and 
notice of public listening sessions and scientific workshops.

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SUMMARY: We, NMFS, issue this document to request information from the 
public on a Status Review Report and a draft Management Report we 
prepared in response to a petition from the Center for Biological 
Diversity (CBD) to list 83 coral species as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to notify the public about 
future public listening sessions and scientific workshops on this 
topic. The Status Review Report examines the biology of, threats to, 
and extinction risk of 82 coral species, while the draft Management 
Report describes existing regulatory mechanisms and ongoing 
conservation efforts to manage and conserve these species throughout 
the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific. Collectively, these two reports 
constitute the best available scientific and commercial information 
that we have compiled to date on the 82 species of coral under review.
    The review of the status of these species is a major undertaking 
because of the large number and geographically dispersed nature of 
coral species involved. Therefore, with the approval of a federal 
court, NMFS and CBD have agreed to an extension of the previously 
approved deadline for issuing the 12-month finding on this petition. We 
are using this extension to allow additional opportunity for the public 
to provide us with information that may further inform our 12-month 
finding as to whether the petitioned action is or is not warranted. In 
addition, we will hold two public listening sessions and two public 
scientific workshops, during which we will explain the evaluation 
process and the public and experts will have opportunity to provide any 
additional relevant information on this matter.

DATES: Comments on the documents and additional papers, reports, and 
information must be received by July 31, 2012. Dates, times, and 
location information for public listening sessions and scientific 
workshops will be announced in a subsequent Federal Register document.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Status Review Report of 82 
Candidate Coral Species Petitioned Under the U.S. Endangered Species 
Act (Status Review Report) and the draft Management Report for 82 
Corals Status Review under the Endangered Species Act: Assessment of 
Existing Regulatory Mechanisms and Conservation Efforts (Management 
Report) by visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/04/4_13_12corals_petition.html.
    The two reports may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular 
business hours, at: NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1601 
Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814; or NMFS, Southeast 
Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    You may submit information, identified by 0648-XT12, on the Status 
Review Report and the draft Management Report by any of the following 
methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic information 
via electronic mail to NMFS.82Corals@noaa.gov.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Regulatory Branch Chief, 
Protected Resources Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 
Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 1110, 
Honolulu, HI 96814, Attn: 82 coral species; or to Assistant Regional 
Administrator for Protected Resources, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, 
263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; Attn: 82 coral 
species.
     Fax: 808-973-2941; Attn: Protected Resources Regulatory 
Branch Chief, or 727-824-5309; Attn: Assistant Regional Administrator 
for Protected Resources.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chelsey Young, NMFS, Pacific Islands 
Regional Office, 808-944-2137; Lance Smith, NMFS, Pacific Island 
Regional Office, 808-944-2258; Jennifer Moore, NMFS, Southeast Regional 
Office, 727-824-5312; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8469.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    This request for information is not part of any rulemaking action, 
but is issued to assist us in determining the most appropriate course 
of action on a petition we received to list 83 species of coral in the 
Caribbean and Indo-Pacific as threatened or endangered under the ESA. 
On February 10, 2010, we published a 90-day finding on the petition in 
the Federal Register, concluding that the petition presented 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing may be warranted for 82 of the 83 petitioned species (75 FR 
6616). The 90-day finding was followed by a public comment period, 
during which we received approximately 400 public comments.
    We also established a Biological Review Team (BRT) composed of 
Federal scientists to examine the status of the 82 coral species in 
question and evaluate, based on the best available scientific 
information, the extinction risk for each species. The BRT was not 
charged with making recommendations for listing. In September 2011, 
after being peer-reviewed by the Center for Independent Experts, we 
finalized the Status Review Report, which is a technical document 
approximately 450 pages in length (excluding references). Separately, 
NMFS' Pacific Islands and Southeast Regional offices drafted a 
Management Report (approximately 130 pages, excluding references and an 
appendix) to evaluate management activities affecting coral species 
across their range, including existing regulatory mechanisms and 
conservation efforts. Together, these two reports constitute the best 
available scientific and commercial information that we have compiled 
to date on the 82 species of coral under review.
    On September 27, 2011, CBD sued us challenging our failure to make 
a 12-month finding as to the 82 coral species. Shortly thereafter, we 
entered into a stipulated settlement agreement with CBD in which we 
agreed to submit our 12-month finding to the Federal Register for 
publication on or before April 15, 2012. The U.S. District Court for 
the Northern District of California (court) entered this stipulated 
settlement agreement on November 8, 2011. Subsequent discussions 
between CBD and us resulted in the court modifying the deadline to 
require us to submit our 12-month finding to the Federal Register on or 
before December 1, 2012. The court also ordered that we publish the 
Status Review Report and draft Management Report for public comment on 
or before April 15, 2012.
    The response to the petition to list 83 coral species is one of the 
most complex listing processes we have ever undertaken. Given the 
petition's scale and the precedential nature of the issues, we have 
determined that our decision-making process would be

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strengthened if we take additional time to allow the public, non-
federal experts, non-governmental organizations, state and territorial 
governments, and academics to review and provide information related to 
the Status Review Report and draft Management Report prior to issuing 
our 12-month finding. We will hold listening sessions and scientific 
workshops in the Southeast region and Pacific Islands region and will 
then consider the information gathered through these venues and through 
written submissions to inform our 12-month finding and, if appropriate, 
a proposed listing rule.
    We expect that this outreach effort will allow the public to 
understand more clearly the context in which this petition is being 
evaluated and the basis and rationale supporting our 12-month finding. 
We also expect this process will ensure that any additional relevant 
scientific information available is brought to our attention. This 
document is not part of the usual rulemaking process and is unique to 
NMFS' response to the petition to list 83 coral species. Thus, the 
additional outreach conducted in this case does not establish precedent 
for any other ESA-listing process.

Information Solicited

    We are particularly interested in receiving information on the 
following:
    (1) Relevant scientific information collected or produced since the 
completion of the Status Review Report (2011) or any relevant 
scientific information not included in the Report; and
    (2) Relevant management information not included in the draft 
Management Report, such as descriptions of regulatory mechanisms for 
greenhouse gas emissions globally, and for local threats in the 83 
foreign countries and the U.S. (Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. 
Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands), 
where the 82 coral species collectively occur.
    Although this action is not a rulemaking, we will accept 
information received in response to this solicitation and will take 
such information into account, along with the information received on 
the 90-day finding (75 FR 6616; February 10, 2010), when we make our 
12-month finding on whether CBD's petitioned action is warranted. If 
you have submitted information during the previous comment period, 
there is no need to re-submit it. We request that all information 
submitted be accompanied by supporting documentation such as maps, 
bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications. If 
possible, comments should include the heading of the relevant section 
of the Status Review Report or draft Management Report. Please submit 
any information to the ADDRESSES listed above.

Public Listening Sessions and Scientific Workshops

    In addition to soliciting input from the public on the Status 
Review Report and draft Management Report, we will hold one public 
listening session and one scientific workshop in each of the two 
relevant regions: the Southeast and Pacific Islands, during which we 
will explain the evaluation process and the public and experts will 
have opportunity to provide any additional relevant information on this 
matter. Dates, times, and locations of these meetings will be announced 
in a subsequent Federal Register document and on our Web site at: 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/04/4_13_12corals_petition.html.
    We have not yet published a proposed listing rule for the 82 coral 
species. Therefore, we cannot consider comments on whether a 
determination should be made as to whether some or all of the 
petitioned corals are an endangered or threatened species. The ESA also 
prohibits us from taking economic or social impacts into consideration 
in any listing decisions. Accordingly, we cannot consider comments on 
these matters.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: April 12, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-9243 Filed 4-16-12; 8:45 am]
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