Listing Nassau Grouper Under the Endangered Species Act
We, NOAA Fisheries, are publishing this final rule to implement our determination to list the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We have completed a status review of the Nassau grouper in response to a petition submitted by WildEarth Guardians. After reviewing the best scientific and commercial data available, including the status review and comments received on the proposed rule, we have determined that the Nassau grouper meets the definition of a threatened species. While the species still occupies its historical range, overutilization through historical harvest has reduced the number of individuals which in turn has reduced the number and size of spawning aggregations. Although harvest of Nassau grouper has diminished due to management measures, the reduced number and size of spawning aggregations and the inadequacy of law enforcement continue to present extinction risk to Nassau grouper. Based on these considerations, described in more detail within this action, we conclude that the Nassau grouper is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is likely to become so within the foreseeable future. We also solicit information that may be relevant to the designation of critical habitat for Nassau grouper, including information on physical or biological features essential to the species' conservation, areas containing these features, and potential impacts of a designation.