In an earlier article, we advised you that the National Marine Fisheries Service had published a proposed rule to designate marine critical habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle.
The rule proposes the designation of 36 areas along the southeast coast and Gulf of Mexico as marine critical habitat (CH) for the Northwest Atlantic DPS. Each of these areas has been identified as containing one or more of the following four habitat types:
(a) Nearshore Reproductive Habitat
(b) Winter Habitat
(c) Breeding Habitat
(d) Migratory Habitat
NMFS asked for comments regarding these proposed designations as well as “comment on whether to include in the final rule some areas that contain foraging habitat and two large areas that contain Sargassum habitat.”
The NMFS proposal was based on scientific data analyses and economic impact analyses that contained significant shortcomings which must be addressed before the final rule is established. We believe the designation of any CH must be based on the proper application of regulations established by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Most importantly, NMFS must base its recommendation for each CH on the best available science (including a thorough analysis of the best available historical data) and on an accurate assessment of the CH’s importance to the survival of the species. It must also give proper consideration to economic and social impacts due to any CH designation it makes.