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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-BL86 Publication ID: Fall 2023 
Title: Designation of Critical Habitat for Rice's Whale Under the Endangered Species Act 

Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) effective April 15, 2019 (84 FR 15446). On October 22, 2021, NMFS published a final rule that revised the listing of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales to reflect the scientifically accepted taxonomy and nomenclature of the species (86 FR 47022). The revised common name for this species is Rice’s whale and the scientific name is Balaenoptera ricei. The ESA requires that critical habitat be designated to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the time a species is listed (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(i)). NMFS concluded that critical habitat was not yet determinable for the Rice’s whale at the time of listing. However, NMFS indicated that they anticipated critical habitat would be determinable in the future given on-going research. NMFS, therefore, announced in the final listing rule that they would propose critical habitat in a separate rulemaking. This rule proposes to designate critical habitat for the endangered Rice’s whale as one specific area within the Gulf of Mexico that extends from the Texas-Mexico border in the west to the Florida Keys in the east and lies between the 100m and 400m isobaths. NMFS will consult with the Department of Defense to assess any potential national security impacts as a result of the proposed critical habitat designation.

Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 50 CFR 226   
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1533    16 U.S.C. 1532   
Legal Deadline:
Action Source Description Date
NPRM  Judicial  Negotiated settlement agreement.  10/31/2022 
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  07/24/2023  88 FR 47453   
NPRM Comment Period End  09/22/2023 
NPRM Comment Period Extension  10/06/2023  88 FR 62522   
Final Action  06/00/2024 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Kim Damon-Randall
Director, Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 427-8400