Petition to Establish Vessel Speed Measures to Protect Rice’s Whale
On May 11, 2021, NOAA Fisheries received a petition pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Healthy Gulf, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, and New England Aquarium. It requested we used our authorities under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to establish a year-round 10-knot vessel speed limit and other vessel-related mitigation measures to protect Rice’s whales in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. On April 7, 2023, NOAA Fisheries published a formal notice in the Federal Register initiating a 90-day comment period to gather comments and available information to determine whether to accept the petition and proceed with the suggested rulemaking. The comment period closed on July 6, 2023 and we received approximately 75,500 comments. We evaluated the public comments and information submitted during the public comment period. On October 27, 2023, we denied the petition.