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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-BG20 Publication ID: Fall 2016 
Title: ●Endangered and Threatened Species; Critical Habitat for the Threatened Caribbean Corals 
Abstract: The National Marine Fisheries Service listed five Caribbean corals in the Southeast Region as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on October 10, 2014. Critical habitat shall be specified to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the time a species is proposed for listing. We concluded that critical habitat was not determinable for the five corals at the time of listing. However, we anticipated that critical habitat would be determinable in the future given on-going research. We, therefore, announced in the final listing rules that we would propose critical habitat in separate rulemakings. This rule proposes to designate critical habitat for the 5 newly-listed corals and revises critical habitat for the previously-listed corals Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis. A separate rule is being prepared that would propose to designate critical habitat for the 15 Indo-Pacific corals listed as threatened in the same rule as the five Caribbean corals. 
Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
EO 13771 Designation: uncollected 
CFR Citation: 50 CFR 226   
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need: This action would designate new critical habitat for five corals (Dendrogyra cylindrus, Orbicella annularis, O. faveolata, O. franksi, and Mycetophyllia ferox) and revise the 2008 critical habitat designation for two corals (Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis) in accordance with section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. This action follows from the listing of the five new species.

Summary of the Legal Basis: Endangered Species Act

Alternatives: NMFS evaluated alternatives including the impacts of designating all and any parts of 38 (one for each species in each US jurisdiction in which it occurs) units as critical habitat. Units 1 for each species are the waters offshore Florida (generally Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties). Units 2 are the waters surrounding the islands of Puerto Rico. Units 3 are the waters surround the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, US Virgin Islands. Units 4 are the waters surrounding the island of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Units 5 are the waters surrounding the island of Navassa. Units 6 are the waters within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, approximately 100 miles offshore of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. NMFS analyzed the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of designating critical habitat. NMFS will further consider these impacts based on any relevant public and peer reviewer comments regarding this proposed designation.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: The primary benefit of designation is the protection afforded under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, requiring all Federal agencies to insure their actions are not likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. In addition to these protections, the designation may also result in other forms of benefits including, but not limited to: educational awareness and outreach benefits, benefits to tourism and recreation, and improved or sustained habitat quality. Costs specifically associated with the designation of critical habitat stem mainly from Federal agencies requirement to consult with NMFS, under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, to insure that any action they carry out, permit (authorize), or fund will not result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat of a listed species.

Risks: If critical habitat is not designated, listed corals will not be protected to the extent provided for in the ESA, posing a legal risk to the agency and a risk to the species continued existence and recovery.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  12/00/2016 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Donna Wieting
Director, Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 427-8400