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National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at NOAA: National Marine Fisheries Service

Policy resources for practitioners

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and NEPA

When NOAA Fisheries undertakes a federal action, the first thing we have to do is decide if the action is subject to NEPA environmental review. A federal action is an activity, such as a plan, project or program, which may be funded, regulated, conducted, or approved by a federal agency. If the action is subject to NEPA review, then we must document the environmental impacts at one of three levels of NEPA analysis:

  • By preparing a brief memorandum to the administrative record documenting that the activity qualifies for a categorical exclusion.
  • By preparing a concise environmental assessment, and if appropriate, a finding of no significant impact.
  • By preparing a detailed environmental impact statement.

We also provide information for use in NEPA documents prepared by other federal agencies. When another federal agency comes to us to obtain a permit or authorization, we review and provide comments on these documents. Once they are complete, we can adopt them as our own analysis for our permitting or authorization action. Through this process, we seek to ensure that impacts to marine wildlife resources are adequately described and that needed mitigation is provided.

We are responsible for implementing and enforcing more than 40 laws and policies to protect living marine resources. These include laws to deal with illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; illegally trading fish and wildlife; and even the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which designates and protects areas of the marine environment with special national significance.