NOAA Fisheries announces a final rule designating critical habitat for the threatened Nassau grouper, pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The designated areas include habitat features that are essential to the conservation of Nassau grouper, including areas for spawning and for recruitment and development. The final designation includes 20 different geographic units, located in waters off the coasts of southeastern Florida and the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, Navassa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What this Means:
This critical habitat will guide federal agencies in avoiding and minimizing impacts to habitat critical to the recovery of Nassau grouper during planning of federal activities. Designating critical habitat is an important part of species recovery, and protecting and recovering marine species is part of NOAA Fisheries’ core mission. The critical habitat designation does not create any new regulations or restrictions on fisheries. Only federal agencies are directly affected by a critical habitat designation. Non-federal entities may be affected if their activities involve federal funding, permitting, or authorization.
On October 17, 2022, NOAA Fisheries published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the threatened Nassau grouper under the ESA (87 FR 62930). Our public comment period lasted for 60 days, ending on December 16, 2022. The final rule addresses all of the public comments that were received and provides maps of the final designations in waters off of Florida, Navassa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 89 FR 126, published January 2, 2024
How to find more information on the final rule:
The final rule to designate critical habitat for the Nassau grouper and the critical habitat report that was prepared to support the development of the final rule may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Website here. Critical habitat maps and associated GIS data can be found online here.
Contact: Orian Tzadik at NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
Protected Resources Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
By Phone: (813) 906-0353
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Quick Glance Contact List for the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office
Permits Mailbox: The Permits Office in St. Petersburg, Florida, now has a Permits mailbox in the front lobby (263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701). You can now drop off original permits for permit transfers. Envelopes with information labels will be provided so that your documents can be attached to the correct application. The mailbox will be checked daily. For more information, contact the Permits Office at 877-376-4877.
Media Contact: Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750
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