Acropora spp., endangered
aszmant at rsmas.miami.edu
Fri Feb 26 17:26:04 EST 1999
I have read with interest but stayed out of the fray until now, regarding
the listing of Caribbean Acropora species on the endangered species list.
However, the response of CORALations to Walter Jaap's posting made me have
to "speak up" because it mis-interpreted much of Walt's message and made
some rather inane remarks.
1) The Endangered Species Act is an American piece of legislation that is
not binding in other countries. Given that most of the range of these
species is outside of US jurisdiction (as opposed to the spotted owl or some
such beast), inclusion of the Acropora's on the endangered list won't make
all that much difference except to prevent importation of dead skeletons of
the corals from places like the Dominican Republic with I think still allow
harvesting and export. Harvesting of corals and dredging of coral reef
habitat is not allowed in any of the US waters.
2) Walt didn't make the requirements up: the Endangered Species Act has
some very specific criteria that need to be met in order to justify a
species to be included on the list, not just a few people claiming that the
"sky is falling" for the Acropora's. While I agree that in SOME locations
there have been dramatic decreases in the abundance of these species, in
OTHERS they seem to be doing fine, and in fact I've seen some hugh patches
of recent Acropora palmata and cervicornis recruitment on the South coast of
Puerto Rico that would refute that the species is endangered as defined by
the Act. Matter of fact, until Hurricane Georges came along Sept of '98 we
had some very healthy and fast growing patches of A. palmata here in the
Upper Fla Keys, that were vigorous spawners and much evidence of
recruitment, again refuting that the species is truly endangered. I do not
know how they will recover from the hurricane and the severe state of
bleaching they were in at the time the hurricane struck, and they may not
recover fully here on Florida reefs immediately or even after a long
time...I don't have a cristal ball... but, as Walt pointed out, until we
really have the DATA that demonstrates that the specific species (a) is
below reproductive/recuitment capacity in ALL it's range (and I just heard
last night about great healthy stands of it in several places in the
Bahamas), then they won't meet the specific guidelines to be designated as
endangered species. In my opinion, based on what I've seen, theyt are not.
3) Walt never stated that CORAL REEFS shouldn't be protected, nor that
water quality problems should be ignored, nor any of the other snotty
comments in the CORALations message. He simply pointed out that there are
numerous other routes and regulations in place other than the ESA than
should be used, and in some places are being used, to protect CORAL REEF
ecosystems, which in the process protect all coral species not just a
At 12:18 PM 2/26/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear Mr. Jaap:
>You wrote: " We do not believe that any of the aforementioned taxa of
>corals could satisfy the criteria of endangered or threatened species."
>Can someone discuss this criteria or possibly scan and post? How does this
>designation differ from appendix II listing?
>You wrote: "Firstly, to prove that a coral is threatened or at risk
>throughout the Caribbean, Florida, Bahamas, Bermuda, and places in between
>is costly, time consuming, and might be very difficult to prove the case."
>Does this mean there is no data backing compliance to ES criteria for the
>taxa listed? I was under the impression that this discussion originated
>based on evidence which suggests they fit the criteria. Are reefs
>considered "shared resources" in these regions with respect to such
>legislation? Would, for example, a disease diagnosed in one region
>resulting in extensive mortality of a species of coral be enough of a cause
>for concern to protect the same species in other regions given that these
>diseases are distributed by currents, or are you saying extensive
>monitoring is required in each specific region? In other words, at this
>point in time, how much investigation actually needs to be done in order to
>see if criteria are met and to what regions would the protection apply?
>You wrote: "Are corals currently protected from human exploitation by other
>and management regimes? I would like to think so."
>I would like to think so too. Unfortunately, don't corals continue to
>decline in large part due to anthropogenic stressors? The big picture is we
>don't seem to be "managing" our selves very well. We can't even manage
>trade, let alone less direct impacts from run off etc.... Look, for
>example, at the large black coral galleries on St. Thomas, Cayman and Las
>Vegas. There's a two page magazine add that reads like a documentary in
>American Skies, the American Eagle magazine promoting this "art." How are
>permits allocated for such exploitation with so little knowledge about the
>"protected" species? In St. Thomas, the existence of this well publicized
>gallery has encourage neighboring shops to engage in the trade. Many
>fishermen in the DR are risking their lives to harvest this coral.
>My only concern about using endangered species act to protect coral is that
>the response to the question you posed: "Are corals currently protected
>from human exploitation by other statutes and management regimes? would be
>answered as casually with "I would like to think so, they're considered
>You wrote: "Would the endangered species act have provided immunity from
>these anthropogenic disturbances? Although, I believe you are
>specifically referring to groundings when you discuss "anthropogenic
>events" what about development related stress? Has the endangered species
>act been used to stop development? With respect to groundings, could the
>endangered species act be used to create legislation which diverts tanker
>traffic away from sensitive coral reef areas, minimizing future groundings
>and tanker related accidents? Has endangered species act ever been used to
>improve water quality?
>You wrote: "Natural events such as hurricanes, ENSO related bleaching
>episodes, and global warming are still occurring in spite of the efforts
> coral protection statutes and management regimes. Would additional
> protective legislation such as the endangered species program provide
> more protection to the reef resources? "
>I believe the answer to this depends on the proposed protective
>legislation. We should be using past management failures to discuss
>additional protective legislation. With regard to the endangered species
>act, I would think we can use this as another tool to minimize additional
>anthropogenic stress to protected corals from proposed development and
>water quality issues. Your "natural events" argument better defends why
>we should do more....not eliminate a legislative avenue that already
> You wrote: Coral populations are very dynamic. In the case of Acropora
>(Lamarck, 1816) there is good evidence that it has gone through boom and
> bust dynamics for quite some time.
>Are you suggesting that no anthropogenic stressors are currently
>contributing to the decline of this species?
> I respect you for posting your arguments to the web for discussion. I also
>have concerns about the effectiveness of the endangered species act to
>protect corals. To many people, corals are just rocks, or rocks with
>worms. However, unlike you, I see this as a cause for concern to open
>discussion about more aggressive comprehensive legislation, not grounds
>for abandonment of laws currently on the books. Other listers have
>commented that by protecting one species of coral others will benefit. In
>my opinion, the strongest argument you present is cost - benefit.
>However, I feel your cost-benefit argument fails if a substantial amount of
>data exists which can be used to demonstrate compliance with ES criteria
>and other corals benefit by proximity to the species being listed.
>Mary Ann Lucking
>Amapola 14, Suite 901
>Isla Verde, PR 00979
>corals at caribe.net
>> From: Walt Jaap STP <JAAP_W at epic7.dep.state.fl.us>
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: Acropora spp., endangered
>> Date: Friday, February 26, 1999 6:07 AM
>> [Moderator's note: this letter to Tom Hourigan from Walt Jaap was
>> reprinted with permission from Walt for the purpose of encouraging
>> discussion and contrasting or complementary viewpoints.]
>> 22 February, 1999
>> Dr. Thomas F. Hourigan
>> Marine Biodiversity Coordinator
>> Office of Protected Resources, NOAAF/PR
>> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
>> National Marine Fisheries Service
>> 1315 East-West Highway
>> Silver Spring, MD 20910
>> tom.hourigan at noaa.gov
>> Dear Dr. Hourigan:
>> I am responding to your internet request about Acropora spp. and other
>> Scleractinian species for inclusion as endangered or threatened species.
>> We have encountered this option several times from different groups over
>> the years; and have looked at the option to see if it was reasonable,
>> possible, and would it do a better job protecting corals than the
>> existing statutes and management regimes. We have concluded that it is
>> not the best approach for several reasons.
>> Firstly, to prove that a coral is threatened or at risk throughout the
>> Caribbean, Florida, Bahamas, Bermuda, and places in between is costly,
>> time consuming, and might be very difficult to prove the case.
>> Are corals currently protected from human exploitation by other statutes
>> and management regimes? I would like to think so. In Florida, we have
>> a state statute that protects all Scleractinia, Millepora spp, and
>> Gorgonia spp from harvest, being sold in a commercial establishment, and
>> from destruction on the sea floor. This statute has been in effect
>> since the mid 1970s. At the federal level the most extensive coral
>> protection is found under the Magnuson Act: The Gulf of Mexico and
>> South Atlantic Fisherie s Councils cosponsored the work that resulted in
>> the Coral and Coral Reef Fishery Management Plan. This plan parallels
>> the Florida statute, protecting the Scleractinia, Millepora spp, and
>> Gorgonia spp. This management regime was recently incorporated into the
>> Essential Fish Habitat Plan by the Fishery Management Councils.
>> The Department of Interior manages two National Parks (Biscayne and Dry
>> Tortugas) in which all corals are protected. The State of Florida and
>> NOAA are the trustees of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
>> which includes all the reefs outside the National Park boundaries from
>> Fowey Rocks to west of Dry Tortugas, again the regulations protect
>> corals and reefs. When anthropogenic events occur, the trustees have
>> successfully prosecuted responsible parties or have negotiated effective
>> restoration and mon itoring plans on the sites. Settlements were in the
>> range of millions of dollars. Would the endangered species act have
>> provided immunity from these anthropogenic disturbances? I do not think
>> it would have.
>> Natural events such as hurricanes, ENSO related bleaching episodes, and
>> global warming are still occurring in spite of the efforts that the
>> coral protection statutes and management regimes. Would additional
>> protective legislation such as the endangered species program provide
>> more protection to the reef resources? I am skeptical that adding a few
>> Scleractinia corals to the endangered and threatened species list would
>> be of benefit.
>> Coral populations are very dynamic. In the case of Acropora palmata
>> (Lamarck, 1816) there is good evidence that it has gone through boom and
>> bust dynamics for quite some time. In 1882, Alexander Agassiz reported
>> 44 hectares of A. palmata at Dry Tortugas. In 1982, Gary Davis reported
>> that, A. palmata coverage declined to 0.6 hectares, ten years later we
>> measured the remnant population and noted little change. The decline
>> was probably caused by hurricanes and other meteorological phenomena.
>> In retrospect, or as they claim hind sight is perfect, when the debate
>> over the Everglades Park boundaries was first debated in the late 1940s,
>> Gill Voss told me an initial proposal had all of the Florida Keys with
>> the exception of Key West and Marathon included in Everglades National
>> Park. Local politics prevailed and the end result is a highly urbanized
>> Florida Keys in which the environmental quality has suffered from user
>> abuse. Ah, if we could only go back in time and make it right.
>> We recognize that your intentions are well meaning and appreciate your
>> concern. We respectfully disagree that the corals mentioned in your
>> communication should be considered for nomination as endangered or
>> threatened species. We do not believe that any of the aforementioned
>> taxa of corals could satisfy the criteria of endangered or threatened
>> species. Since we have existing statutes and management regimes that
>> are designed to protect corals and reefs, the proposed status would have
>> little or no effect o n these resources.
>> Walter C. Jaap Associate Research Scientist Florida Marine Research
Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Cswy.
Miami FL 33149
FAX: (305)361-4600 or 361-4005
E-mail: ASZMANT at RSMAS.MIAMI.EDU
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