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NOAA seeks comments on plan

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on the Fishery Management Plan for Regulating Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico (FMP).

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted the FMP to NOAA Fisheries Service for review, approval and implementation. The notice of availability for public comment on this FMP was published in the “Federal Register” June 4.

Currently, NOAA Fisheries Service requires an exempted fishing permit to conduct aquaculture in federal waters. This permit is of limited duration and is not intended for commercial production of fish and shellfish, making aquaculture in federal waters not viable under the current permitting process, according to the Council. If implemented through rulemaking, this FMP would establish a comprehensive permitting and regulatory framework to manage the development of an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Written comments must be received no later than 4 p.m., August 3, 2009. Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov. Comments can also be mailed to Jess Beck, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries Service, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.

The FMP, which includes an environmental impact statement, a regulatory impact review and an initial regulatory flexibility analysis, is available at www.gulfcouncil.org, or by contacting the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, 2203 North Lois Avenue, Suite 1100, Tampa, FL 33607; telephone (813) 348-1630; fax (813) 348-1711; e-mail gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org.

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