NOAA 2001-R127
Contact: Brian Gorman


The National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has unveiled a proposed 4(d) rule designed to protect four threatened populations, or evolutionarily significant units, of salmon and steelhead in California. This new rule closely parallels a 4(d) rule the agency put in place last year to protect three threatened steelhead populations in California.

The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on Friday, August 17, 2001, addresses spring-run chinook salmon in California's central valley and populations of steelhead, chinook and coho that are found in coastal watersheds ranging along the central and north coasts of California. The proposed rule would prohibit activities that kill or harm these four populations, which NOAA fisheries previously listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA fisheries believes these prohibitions are necessary to protect these populations, which have seriously declined to the point where they require protection under the ESA.

In addition to these prohibitions, the proposed rule also contains a series of exceptions to the take prohibitions, called "take limits," for several general categories of activities that the agency may exempt in the future, if the state or local entities submit a specific proposal for approval. The proposed rule describes the categories of activities that may be exempted, such as recreational fishing, hatchery operation, scientific research, routine road maintenance, water diversions and municipal development activitiesIt also specifies the criteria that would be used to evaluate any proposal.

NOAA fisheries believes these exemptions will reduce red tape, appreciably cut back on the need for ESA-related permits for activities that may be exempted under the take limits, and will create strong incentives for the state and local jurisdictions to develop programs that will protect and conserve these threatened salmon and steelhead populations.

Under section 4(d) of the ESA, the secretary of commerce is required to adopt protective rules that are deemed necessary and advisable for the conservation of species listed as threatened. This proposed ESA 4(d) rule contains the protective regulations NOAA fisheries believes necessary and advisable for the conservation of these four threatened salmon and steelhead populations.

The proposed rule also contains guidance on what category of activities, like irrigation diversions that dry up spawning and rearing habitats, or construction activities in a stream that crush salmon nests during spawning season, are most likely to cause harm or injury to the threatened salmon and steelhead covered under the rule.

NOAA fisheries plans to announce public hearings in a forthcoming Federal Register notice as part of the 45-day comment period for the proposed rule. Send written comments to: Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Region, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4213. The public can receive a copy of the proposed rule by calling (562) 980-4020.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitatTo learn more about NOAA fisheries, please visit