• NOAA Proposes Regulations for Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

    On October 22, 2010, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published Federal Register notice of proposed new regulations for Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This sanctuary is located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. NOAA requests public comments on its proposed new regulations no later than January 9, 2011. A public hearing on the proposals will be held on Thursday, December 9, 2010 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary office building at 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551.

    You can read NOAA’s Federal Register notice at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-26762.htm.

    NOAA’s notice says that the proposed new regulations:

    “1. Require any vessel moored in the sanctuary to exhibit the blue and white International Code flag “A” (“alpha” dive flag) whenever a SCUBA diver is in the water and remove the “alpha” dive flag once all divers exit the water and return on board the vessel;

    2. Clarify that the prohibition on discharge or deposit of any material or other matter applies to discharges and deposits “from within or into” the sanctuary; and clarify that the exception to the discharge/deposit prohibition for fish, fish parts, or chumming materials (bait) applies only to discharges or deposits made during the conduct of fishing with conventional hook and line gear within the sanctuary;

    3. Eliminate the exception that allows for the discharge or deposit of biodegradable effluents in the sanctuary; eliminate the phrase “routine vessel operation'”; clarify that the exception applies only to discharge or deposit of clean vessel deck wash down, clean vessel engine cooling water, clean bilge water, or anchor wash, and clean effluent from an operable Type I or II marine sanitation device (MSD); require vessel operators to lock all MSDs in a manner that prevents discharge or deposit of untreated sewage; and add definitions for the terms “clean” and “harmful matter” to provide quality requirements for discharges and deposits;

    4. Add a new prohibition on killing, injuring, attracting, touching, or disturbing a ray or whale shark; and add definitions for the terms “attract or attracting” and “disturb or disturbing a ray or whale shark”; and

    5. Make technical corrections to eliminate outdated references of paragraphs that no longer exist in the regulations; and update cross references to other paragraphs.”

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