NOAA 2002-046
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NOAA News Releases 2002
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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today launched e-Comments, a new Internet-based system designed to engage the public directly in electronic rulemaking for the first time in agency history.

The new e-Comments system – accessible through the NOAA Fisheries Web site – is a pilot project designed to introduce electronic rulemaking to the agency and its constituents. Although the agency is using just one proposed rule during the evaluation, NOAA Fisheries plans to expand e-Comments to include regulations and notices it publishes in the Federal Register.

"Our e-Comments pilot is an example of using technology to expand the opportunities for constituents to communicate with NOAA Fisheries and participate in the public process," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "Electronic rulemaking will enhance the agency's ability to collect, organize and analyze public comments for the record."

During the comment period the public is encouraged to use the agency's new e-Comments Web site to compose and submit comments on the proposed rule. Until now, NOAA Fisheries has accepted public comments by fax or mail only. That policy will be relaxed during the e-Comments pilot project, so that the agency may accept electronic comments on the proposed rule on vessel permits and charterboat requirements in the Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) fishery.

The proposed rule would require all HMS anglers to obtain an HMS recreational fishing permit annually, would define HMS charter/headboat requirements, address the impacts that the new definition may have on the sale of fish and retention limits and contains some minor amendments to existing regulations.

All of the electronic comments received for the pilot rule will be stored in a database and posted on the e-Comments Web site for viewing after the comment period closes. Eventually, the agency's goal is to post all public comments while the comment period is still open and afterwards as part of the document archive. Comments that are mailed or faxed to the agency also will be posted on the Web site for viewing.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicaed 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 habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit