Emergency Consultation

Emergency Consultation Guidance

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) recognizes the need to respond immediately to emergencies.  Consultation during emergencies is expedited so Federal agencies can complete their critical missions in a timely manner while still providing protections to listed species.  Where emergency actions are required that may affect listed species and/or their critical habitats, a Federal agency may not have the time for the administrative work required by normal consultation procedures under non-emergency conditions.  Emergency consultation expedites communication and allows agencies to incorporate endangered species concerns into their emergency response.

An emergency is a situation involving an act of God, disasters, casualties, national defense or security emergencies, etc., and includes response activities that must be taken to prevent imminent loss of human life or property.  Predictable events, like those covered in Emergency Use Permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide applications, usually do not qualify as emergencies under the Section 7 regulations unless there is a significant unexpected human health risk.  During any emergency, NMFS’ primary objective is to provide technical assistance and recommendations for minimizing adverse effects to listed species during the emergency response activities.  During emergency events, the primary objective of the responding agency must be to protect human life and property and this objective takes precedence if there is a conflict with protective measures for listed species under the ESA.  The protection of ESA-listed species and designated critical habitat is warranted when it will not interfere with the emergency response to protect human life and property.

Endangered Species Act Emergency Response Process:

STEP 1 - Initiating Contact

During any emergency response, the Federal agency will contact NMFS by telephone (and if possible also by email) as quickly as possible following the onset of the emergency.  For Emergency Endangered Species Act Consultations please contact us immediately at nmfs.ser.emergency.consult@noaa.gov.  Points of contact are Joseph Cavanaugh at  (727) 551-5097 for North Carolina to Texas and Jennifer Moore at (727) 551-5797 for the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. 

STEP 2 - NMFS Recommendations

During this initial contact, NMFS will recommend steps to minimize the impacts to any listed species or critical habitat in the area during the emergency response.  The Federal agency should implement these protective mechanisms if practical.  NMFS will also provide the agency, within 48 hours, a written response detailing the protective procedures that were identified during the initial contact.   

STEP 3 - NMFS Evaluation

NMFS will continue to evaluate the emergency.  If this evaluation indicates that the emergency response procedures may result in jeopardy/adverse modification, and no means of reducing or avoiding this impact are available, NMFS will advise the responding agency of this and document this conclusion.  The agency will not stop or delay their emergency response because of this notification.  In such a situation, the Federal agency and NMFS will discuss actions to remediate the effects following conclusion of the emergency.

STEP 4 - Emergency Over

Once the emergency is under control, the action agency will evaluate the emergency consultation measures, identify any incidental take of a species or critical habitat, and initiate a post emergency consultation with NMFS.

STEP 5 - Consultation Completed

NMFS will prepare an after-the-fact biological opinion to cover any incidental take that occurred during the emergency response and document the final impacts to the ESA-listed species.  If no take occurred, the action agency should notify NMFS and no further consultation is required.

Emergency Consultation Forms

General Information

Coast Guard