right whale critical habitat (fwd)

From: Mike Williamson (williams@whale.wheelock.edu)
Date: Tue Dec 24 2002 - 10:23:43 EST

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    An issue came up last week at the industry working group meeting with
    the economist doing the right whale economic impact analysis. Several
    shipping industry folks had read about the possible expansion of the
    right whale critical habitats. I thought it might be useful to provide
    background and additional information about this issue.

    In July 2002, NOAA Fisheries received a petition from The Ocean
    Conservancy requesting NOAA Fisheries consider revising and expanding
    the current critical habitat for Western North Atlantic Right Whales in
    waters off the northeast and southeast United States. The petition
    argues that since the designation of right whale critical habitat in
    1994, knowledge of the distribution and mortality of North Atlantic
    right whales has increased substantially, indicating that critical
    habitat boundaries may need to be revised to provide proper protection
    for right whales.

    On November 19, 2002, NOAA Fisheries published a notice for a 90-day
    comment period on the petition, announcing that the petition presents
    substantial scientific information indicating that the requested action
    may be warranted. Within 1 year of the receipt of the petition, NOAA
    Fisheries will determine how it intends to proceed with the requested

    It is important to note that the designation of critical habitat
    doesn't, in itself, restrict activities within the area or mandate any
    specific management action. A critical habitat designation contributes
    to the conservation of endangered and threatened species by identifying
    specific areas within the geographic range of the species that contain
    those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of
    the species, thus alerting public and private entities to the importance
    of the area. Therefore, critical habitat designation helps focus
    Federal, state, and private conservation and management efforts in those
    To view a copy of the November 19th Federal Register announcement,
    please go to http://www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/rwch90day.pdf

    If you are interested in submitting comments, they must be postmarked or
    transmitted by facsimile by January 21, 2003.

    Best regards,
    Pat Gerrior

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