Resolution calls for pause in designation of critical coral habitats to get public input

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The resolution calls for a pause to the designation of critical coral habitats all around Guam. (file photo)

The legislature publicly heard a resolution calling for a pause to the designation of critical coral habitats all around Guam due to a lack of enough public input.

Sen. Clynt Ridgell introduced Resolution 46-36, urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to delay the proposed coral critical habitat designation process until the 5-year coral status review and coral recovery plan for Guam are completed.

The senator also urged the federal agency to collaborate with the Department of Agriculture in identifying appropriate coral critical habitat for Guam.

According to the resolution, on Sept 2014, the federal agency listed 15 species of Indo Pacific corals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Then, the agency issued a proposed rule that critical habitat would be designated in the shallow nearshore waters of Guam, the CNMI, and American Samoa — six years after the coral species were listed.

According to the resolution, the NMFS did not consult with the governments of Guam, the CNMI, or American Samoan before issuing the proposed rule which designates these coral habitats as critical.

According to the NOAA definition of critical habitat, special management considerations may be placed in critical habitat areas to protect or conserve the endangered species.

While the governors of Guam, CNMI, and American Samoa requested a 90-day extension to allow for public comments and review of the proposed rule, the federal agency rejected the 90-day request and only allowed a 60-day extension.

Ridgell also notes that with the proposed rule, the agency unilaterally designates the entire coastline of Guam as critical habitat but does not include coastlines used by the military, which he says is unfair.

During the hearing, Ridgell said that by asking for a pause to the designation, scientists would be able to review the designation and make decisions based on science and the actual input and recommendations of local regulatory agencies and stakeholders.

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