Monday, September 22, 2003

NMMA Submits Comments to NOAA Re: Designating Marine Managed Areas

September 22, 2003

Mr. Joseph Uravitch
National MPA Center, N/ORM
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1305 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

VIA E-Mail [] and Regular Mail

RE:  MMA Inventory Comments, Docket No. 030530139-3139-01; I.D. 010401B

Dear Mr. Uravitch:

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) submits the following comments in response to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Commerce Office of the Secretary, and the Department of Interior jointly proposed criteria, definitions, and data fields to be used in the development of an Inventory of U.S. Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 43,495).   

NMMA supports preserving the marine environment.  However, our members want to be sure that that recreational boating and fishing activities be given due consideration and not be unduly restricted.  To that end we offer the following observations:

General Comments

It is unclear from the proposal whether the development of a MMA Inventory and Marine Protected Area (MPA) List is intended to facilitate the eventual federal control of each of the sites listed in the Inventory or List.  Therefore, the intent of the agencies regarding federal control should be clarified in this proposal and in future proposals regarding the MMA Inventory or MPA List. 

In addition, regardless of the source of the original designation of a site, once included in the Inventory and more importantly once included in the MPA List, a site will have an effective federal imprimatur.  Therefore, the MPA Center should be very careful not to include sites in the Inventory or List without an analysis or review of the scientific basis for the site’s protections.  In addition, the Inventory and List should also include a periodic review procedure to remove sites from the Inventory or List when listing is no longer warranted.  

Size and Type of Areas Included in the Inventory

E.O. 13158 provides for the protection of “significant” natural and cultural resources within the marine environment of the United States.  This term is vague and the proposal does not provide objective criteria for determining whether a site includes sufficient “significant” natural or cultural resources to warrant being included in the MMA Inventory or MPA List.  For example, the criteria as drafted would include in the MMA Inventory all manatee speed zones.  In addition, it is unclear whether the entire area of a site listed in the MMA Inventory would also be included in the MPA List.  The Inventory criteria as drafted would include some very large areas such as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary which is comprised of approximately 2,800 square miles, however, not every square mile is critical habitat and at present only 5% of the Sanctuary is designated as a Marine Protected Area.  The MMA Inventory criteria should be limited to critical habitat areas or at a minimum differentiate critical areas from areas with lesser protection.  

Cultural Sites

Regarding cultural sites, the proposed criteria which include “any submerged historical or submerged cultural feature, including archaeological sites, historic structures, shipwrecks, artifacts, and subsistence uses in the marine environment” are overly broad.  NMMA urges the agencies to limit inclusion in the Inventory or List to those historical or cultural sites “of national significance.”  This limitation is in line with the Historic Sites Act of 1935 (16 U.S.C. §§ 461-67) and would include important sites such as the first National Marine Sanctuary established to protect the USS Monitor, a Civil War-era shipwreck, but would also rightly exclude the thousands of shipwrecks in marine waters enjoyed by recreational divers. 

Data Fields

The following additional data fields should be included in the MMA Inventory: 
· The Inventory should identify what type of boating activity (if any) is allowed on the site.  For example, the inventory should identify if recreational boating craft and personal watercraft may be used at the site.  The data fields should also identify whether recreational fishing is allowed or restricted in any way. 
· The Inventory should identify what date the information on the site was compiled and last reviewed by MPA Center staff. 
· The Inventory should identify the date the regulatory entity for the site (i.e. Federal, state, local or tribal government) last reevaluated the effectiveness and need for the Marine Managed (or Marine Protected) Area. 
· The MPA Center staff should include a certification for each inventory item that the third-party information relied upon in making the MMA Inventory (or MPA Listing) meets the NOAA, Department of Commerce and Department of Interior Information Quality Guidelines.  In addition, this certification should include an assurance that management plans for the MMA or MPA sites are scientifically based and comply with the requirements for a “Natural Resource Plan” under NOAA’s Information Quality Guidelines.  Compliance with the Information Quality Guidelines is particularly important because, based on the extensive purposes of the MMA Inventory, the information included in the Inventory will be “influential information” (1) under the Guidelines.
· The Inventory should include a contact person and process for requesting correction to information contained in the database as required by the Data Quality Act. (2)

*  *  *

NMMA is the leading national recreational marine trade association with over 1,500 members who are involved in every aspect of the boating industry and manufacture over 80 percent of recreational boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers in the United States.  Together we support the efforts of Federal, State, local and tribal governments to protect these important marine environments for future generations.  We simply ask that due consideration be given to recreational boating.  The MMA Inventory and the MPA Listing process should not used to restrict environmentally sound use of these sites by recreational boaters. 

NMMA appreciates the opportunity to provide comment on the MMA Inventory criteria and would be happy to participate in any forums regarding the MMA Inventory and MPA Listing project.  Please contact Cindy Squires at 202-721-1617 or, if you require any additional information or have any questions. 

Respectfully submitted,
Monita W. Fontaine, Esq.
Vice President, Government Relations

1. See e.g. definition of “influential” in the NOAA Information Quality Guidelines.  
2. See Section 515 of the Treasury and General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Pub. L. 106-554 the “Data Quality Act.”  The agencies’ Information Quality Guidelines were promulgated pursuant to this Act and the Office of Management and Budget issued additional guidelines.  See OMB’s Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, 67 Fed. Reg. 8,451 (Feb. 22, 2002).

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