Proposed Rule to Designate Critical Habitat for Endangered Rice’s Whales

Rice’s Whales management making more “noise” in the Gulf of Mexico?

NOAA announced a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the endangered Rice’s whale under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) even though a decision on the vessel speed in the Gulf of Mexico has not been finalized.

The proposed critical habitat designation and the Rice’s whale vessel speed petition are unrelated actions. Critical habitat is designated under the ESA, and the requirement to designate critical habitat for the Rice’s whale was triggered by its 2019 listing as an endangered species.

The proposed critical habitat includes Gulf of Mexico waters between 100 and 400 meters depth and this critical habitat would guide federal agencies in avoiding and minimizing impacts to habitat critical to the recovery of the Rice’s whale. TBF proposed the Flower Garden Banks Sanctuary off Galveston may offer a better Core Habitat for it did not get the oil flow from the Deepwater Horizon as the proposed site does.

Is is important to note that this proposed designation does not create any new regulations or restrictions on fisheries. Only federal agencies are directly affected by a critical habitat designation; non-federal entities may be affected if their activities involve federal funding, permitting, or authorization.

The proposed designation does not create any new regulations or restrictions on fisheries. Critical habitat designation does not directly affect citizens engaged in recreational activities, such as recreational boating and fishing, or limit their access to the critical habitat area.

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