NOAA considering expanded critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seal
73 Fed. Reg. 57583 / 73 FR 57583-57585 / Vol. 73, No. 193 / Friday, October 3, 2008 (DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 50 CFR Part 226; Docket No. 0809161218–81253–01 RIN 0648–AX23; Listing Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Designating Critical Habitat; 90–day Finding for a Petition to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Hawaiian Monk Seal)
The Center for Biological Diversity's petition seeks to expand critical habitat of the Hawaiian monk seal to reach the main islands, based on studies demonstrating that births have increased on the main Hawaiian Islands since the mid–1990s, and that pups born on the main Hawaiian Islands have been healthier and more likely to survive to adulthood than those born on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Petitioners further cite studies that assert that these larger sizes and healthier physical condition reflects greater prey availability and, thus, better foraging conditions in the main Hawaiian Islands. Photo from NOAA Office of Protected Resources, with links to additional species documents.
SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), announce a 90–day finding for a petition to revise Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. The Hawaiian monk seal is listed as endangered throughout its range, and currently designated critical habitat consists of all beach areas, sand spits, and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters, and ocean waters out to a depth of 20 fathoms (36.6m) around specific areas in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The petition seeks to include key beach areas, sand spits, and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters, and ocean waters out to a depth of 200 meters around the main Hawaiian Islands, and to extend critical habitat designation in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to Sand Island and ocean waters out to a depth of 500 meters. We are initiating a review of currently designated critical habitat of the species to determine whether revision is warranted. To ensure a comprehensive review, we solicit information and comments pertaining to this species’ essential habitat needs from any interested party.