[Coral-List] FW: FYI: Federal protection for coral is weighed

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Tue Jul 6 12:57:35 EDT 2004

To All:


Subject: FYI: Federal protection for coral is weighed


Posted on Thu, Jul. 01, 2004   

Partial article posted below - for full text see link above

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.
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 under threat.

''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.


They were once prolific, but their numbers have been sharply reduced in 
recent years by coral bleaching, boat groundings and disease.


''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 

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.''

The coral would join other federally threatened or endangered Florida 
marine creatures such as the sperm whale, the green turtle and the manatee.

(c) 2004 Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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