[Coral-List] RE: Federal protection for coral is weighed
Bprecht at pbsj.com
Tue Aug 24 21:50:07 EDT 2004
Below is a clip of part of a recent article in the Miami Herald
Federal protection for coral is weighed
Three types of Florida coral are going to be the first considered for
protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
BY JENNIFER BABSON
jbabson at herald.com <mailto:jbabson at herald.com>
KEY WEST - For the first time, a federal agency will consider whether to add
three types of coral found in Florida waters to the U.S. list of threatened
and endangered species.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine
Fisheries Service agreed June 17 to convene a team of experts between now
and March to recommend whether elkhorn coral, staghorn coral and fused
staghorn -- a hybrid variety of the others -- should officially be deemed
''This is going to be the first coral species under review for federal
protection,'' said Jennifer Moore, a NOAA natural resource specialist.
The decision came after a petition was filed in March by the Center For
Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group.
''We are very happy about this. We are glad they are one step closer to
saving this precious resource,'' said Adam Keats, an attorney for the
The corals have been on NOAA's ''species of concern'' list -- which
basically means they are under watch -- since 1999. All three types are
typically golden brown and known for branches that extend like tree limbs.
The invertebrates are found mostly in the warmer waters of the Atlantic and
Caribbean and in the Florida Keys, although they are also situated off
Broward County and Texas.
They were once prolific, but their numbers have been sharply reduced in
recent years by coral bleaching, boat groundings and disease.
PERIOD OF DECLINE
''Elkhorn and staghorn were the predominant reef-building species in the
Caribbean,'' said Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary, a NOAA entity that will assist the panel of coral experts.
``They began to decline in a major way in the 1970s, though the most
destruction was in the 1980s and 1990s.''
In the Keys, said Heck, ''more than 90 percent of both kinds of coral has
died'' over the past few decades.
Although coral is already safeguarded in the 3,843-square-mile sanctuary --
which stretches from Biscayne National Park to the Tortugas -- proponents
say that adding these species to the federal list would provide additional
resources and protections.
Significantly, the designation would require that all proposed federal and
some other actions that could have an impact on the coral -- from fisheries
rules to dredging projects -- have a federal sign-off before proceeding.
Said Heck: ``It's a much broader protection than what we have now in the
sanctuary because what we have now is a direct protection -- you can't touch
it, you can't take it. This would require accounting for the possible
effects of different projects.''
More information about the Coral-List