There are times when we all want to pull our hair out at the gummed-up molasses pace of government – it is both frustrating and discouraging. But other times, such as now, government agencies seem to re-invent themselves and respond quickly to public concerns. In this case NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) took the initiative to address public concerns over Georgia Aquarium’s plans to import wild belugas (see the previous post for information on the aquarium’s request).
NOAA sent the following information along with a request that we all watch for the opportunity to voice our opinions – they take the commenting period very seriously, and it is a chance to make a difference.
The final application was received on June 15th. The next step is to review the application for completeness.
Once the application is considered complete, an environmental assessment (EA) will be drafted to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. It may take several months to prepare the draft environmental assessment.
Then, a notice of receipt for the application and availability of the draft EA will be published in the Federal Register (FR) (it will be combined into one FR notice).
The application and the draft EA will also be posted on the NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources website, and that link will be included in the Federal Register notice.
After the Federal Register notice is published, there will be a public comment period of at least 30 days. The Federal Register notice will include instructions for the public on how to submit comments.
Hopefully NOAA will institute a policy of making all marine mammal applications public in the future, but this recent action by them is a big step in the right direction.
And by the way, this issue is vital to the protection of all cetaceans. If the Georgia Aquarium is granted permission to import the belugas – unconscionable in its own right – the door will be opened to capture other species, such as orcas, in other countries and then import them to our amusement parks.