Green Sturgeon rule changes could loosen restrictions on local shellfish farmers

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service are accepting comments until September 6 on a “regulatory review” of rules impacting waters including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

The purpose of the review is to find whether the rules should be unchanged, revised or rescinded.

In the official release, the agencies say that there are five factors that NMFS must consider:

(1) Whether the rule is still needed;
(2) What type of complaints or comments were received concerning the rule from the public;
(3) The complexity of the rule;
(4) How much the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other Federal rules, and, to the extent feasible, with State and local governmental rules; and
(5) How long it has been since the rule has been evaluated or how much the technology, economic conditions, or other factors have changed in the area affected by the rule.

The rules, originally issued in 2009, cover areas from the Caribbean to the Washington Coast.

Included is a rule that designates “critical habitat” for the endangered North American Green Sturgeon. This specifically includes Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

If /NMFS retain this designation locally, the habitat for the Green Sturgeon would include shellfish beds locally.

In the original draft rules, comments were submitted that the shellfish areas be excluded from the protection area since Green Sturgeon “are not evenly dispersed throughout these waters”.

The report from 2009 also suggests that “The largest concentrations of green sturgeon, including Southern DPS fish, occur within the lower Columbia River estuary, Willapa Bay, and Grays Harbor”.

Included in the protection are limitations on pesticides usable locally for the shellfish beds, specifically those that may disrupt the local ghost shrimp population, saying that they “may adversely affect prey resources and water quality within the bays and estuaries.”

Comments are accepted through September 6.

You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0099, by any of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submission:Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0099, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail:Submit written comments to Tara Scott, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (mark outside of envelope “Comments on 610 Review”).
  • Fax:301-713-1193; Attn: Tara Scott.

 

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