Fw: Acropora spp. - Candidates for Endangered Species List

CORALations corals at caribe.net
Tue Feb 23 13:52:01 EST 1999

Dear Dr. Precht:

I apologize to you and others on the list if what I wrote was not clear...I
did not
mean in any way to imply that we should abandon the endangered
species act or any other legal avenue of protection people have struggled
for years to establish in order to embrace what you described as a
"shot gun" approach to coral reef conservation. Further, when I was
referring to the interconnectedness of species in such an ecosystem I was
not only referring to other coral species, but other reef 
associated species of plants and animals.

The point on which I was trying generate a professional discussion stems
from ever increasing frustrations in finding "real time" solutions to coral
reef conservation problems. I posed the question...could another more
holistic approach to reef conservation legislation be argued at this
time.......based on what scientists have documented about the
interdependence or interconnectedness of species within this ecosystem? 

Am I correct in interpreting your response to this question as "no"
when you wrote:

"Well, I think the data tend to argue against these systems being
interconnected (i.e. tightly integrated) "

By systems, do you mean species within the system?  If I am interpreting
this correctly, it contradicts what I understand about the co-evolution of
species within ecosystems and the importance of conserving species
biodiversity. This is of concern to me since this is what I attempt to
convey as a "grass roots" educator to the general public about reef
systems. Please clarify if I am misinterpreting your comment...it may well
have been meant only in relation to Acropora and the lack of data
supporting any connection between the decline of other coral species in
relation to Acropora declines.  
Any information you, or anyone on the list can send, is always greatly

Thanks to the Langs who wrote: 

"In fact an ecosystem approach to species conservation has been our
theoretical underpinning since about 20 years ago when the Gulf of Mexico
and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils collaborated on a Fishery
Management Plan for Coral and Coral Reefs. The "management unit" here was
defined as being composed of about 400 species of fire corals, soft corals,
gorgonians, black corals and stony corals. At the time, declaring that its
maximum sustainable yield was "incalculable", and that its principal value 
was in "nonconsumptive uses" certainly was an unusual approach to fishery

I had no idea this approach was being taken with any FMP......let alone 20
years ago and plead ignorant!   

Dr. Precht also wrote: 

"Although I am in agreement with you that both corals and coral reefs need
vigilant protection because they are all at some level of risk, especially
at the hands of man coupled with natural disturbances".  

I believe we should, in the face of what may be considered time constraints
on the survival of this ecosystem, carefully scrutinize past conservation
management failures and keep our minds open to innovative and more
practices. Please don’t think this statement reflects ignorance about
social pressures which govern reef and fish legislation, however,  these
comments come from Puerto Rico where fishermen from the municipal island of
Culebra have been requesting the government establish a Marine Fishery
Reserve since 1980 and although final legislation has been drafted for over
a year and a half...still awaits final approval from the local government.

If the cost to society is the entire ecosystem...maybe we could justify the
discussion of more aggressive or comprehensive management strategies?   I
have trouble defining the pursuit of any legislative action as being "a
shot gun approach" as you stated. Legislative channels often take time and
are open for meaningful public participation in the form of public hearings
etc...........at least they are where you live. 

Indeed, the broad definition given to coral reef ecosystem in Clinton’s
order  13089, must be at least some cause for concern to the many "hired
gun" consultants whose job it appears is to protect big business and 
government from the added expense of functioning in an environmentally
responsible manner. 

We should, however,  pay close attention and note if even this broad
definition given to coral reef ecosystems can effectively be used to
contribute to the conservation of these marine systems? For example, much
of the money or re-allocation of federal funds associated with this
executive order is being focused on mapping and monitoring. Should we be
concerned that 20  years from now, scientist may be reviewing what may then
be historic information of where the living reefs once were? Should we be
concerned that in 20 years scientists may be discussing how hard they
"tried" to conserve these systems through the rationalization that the
first step must be lengthy mapping and monitoring?  Will there be any
satisfaction in clearly and empirically demonstrating that these systems
were in fact destroyed by multiple anthropogenic stressors ?  

Do current approaches to coral reef conservation management and associated
fund allocation warrant closer evaluation with respect to their potential
effective contribution toward meeting conservation related objectives given
the rate of system degradation? Could not this money be better spent
addressing, for example, more controversial water quality issues?


Mary Ann Lucking
Project Coordinator
Amapola 14, Suite 901
Isla Verde, PR  00979
corals at caribe.net

> From: Precht,Bill <BPrecht at kennesaw.Lawco.com>
> To: corals at caribe.net
> Subject: FW: Acropora spp. - Candidates for Endangered Species List
> Date: Monday, February 22, 1999 3:20 PM
> CORALations:
> > I read with great interest your note to Tom H. regarding the inclusion
> > Acropora and exclusion of other coral species on the E&T Species list.
> > 
> > You state "based on what we know about the interconnectedness of
> > in such an ecosystem" that we need to look at more than just the
> > acroporids, even at the ecosystem as a whole.
> > 
> > Well, I think the data tend to argue against these systems being
> > interconnected (i.e. tightly integrated) -
> > 
> > The Caribbean wide demise of acroporids over the last two decades has
> > been related to the collapse of other coral species.  In cases where
> > corals have declined, it has been for other reasons not related to the
> > mortality of the acroporids (white-band disease epizootic and related
> > necrosis).  The data clearly show the acroporids to be at risk.  This
> > not so for all coral species in the Caribbean/western Atlantic. The
> > reproductive strategy (poor sexual recruitment success) will not help
> > acroporids recover anytime soon.  
> > 
> > I believe it is
> > not prudent or a best management practice to use your shotgun approach
> > listing the whole ecosystem as endangered.  Local extirpation of the
> > acroporids has already occurred in some populations and there is a
> > risk that in the face of continuing disturbances that we may lose the
> > whole lot.  I would love to discuss this in greater detail if you would
> > like.  I will send you a copy of some recent publications that I hope
> > may find interesting....
> > 
> Sincerely yours, 
> > Bill
> > 
> > William F. Precht
> > Natural Resources Manager
> > LAW Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.
> > 5845 NW 158th Street
> > Miami Lakes, FL  33014
> > ph (305) 826-5588 x206
> > fax (305) 826-1799
> > 
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From:	CORALations [SMTP:corals at caribe.net]
> > Sent:	Monday, February 22, 1999 8:59 AM
> > To:	Coral-List
> > Subject:	Re: Acropora spp. - Candidates for Endangered Species List
> > 
> > Based on what we know about the interconnectedness of species in such
> > ecosystem, how can we still be selecting individual species for
> > and ignoring others...For example..saying Acropora would qualify as
> > endangered due to declines throughout the Caribbean does not provide
> > sollutions for impacts to other species of coral that result from this
> > decline. Could reef scientists  possibly make rational arguments for
> > considering the entire ecosystem as endangered ...including
> > valuable fish and shellfish which play a role in nutrient distribution
> > recycling etc.? 
> > It seems that the way these systems have evolved is more complicated
> > mere % distributions of individual species and if we are going to spend
> > time and energy trying to protect them could we possibly shoot for a
> > legislative solution which effectively recognizes this?   
> > I have concerns about scientists becoming too conservative in the
> > in
> > which they convey impacts to the reef in an effort to propell small,
> > constroversial solutions to society when these solutions may simply not
> > effective. Look how we've bungled and continue to bungle marine fishery
> > legislation in order to propell small paletable bits of legislation
> > too little, too late...rarely complied to or enforced.  
> > 
> > "The problems we have today, will not be solved by thinking the way we
> > thought when we created them"....  Albert Einstein 
> > ----------
> > > From: Bob Steneck <Steneck at maine.maine.edu>
> > > To: Tom Hourigan <Tom.Hourigan at noaa.gov>; Coral List
> > <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> > > Subject: Re: Acropora spp. - Candidates for Endangered Species List
> > > Date: Saturday, February 20, 1999 1:46 PM
> > > 
> > > Dear Tom,
> > > 
> > >   It seems to me that the Acropora decline throughout the Caribbean
> > > qualify that genus and all of its species to endangered status.  I
> > > seen some recent declines in Porites and to a lesser extent
> > > but some of the other species you have listed I do not think qualify.

> > > Most notably is Dendrogyra cylindricus.  While I know of no region or

> > > reef in the Caribbean where it has ever been abundant, it is
> > > common.  Most reefs have a little of that species and most areas I've

> > > worked throughout the Bahamas, eastern and western Caribbean seem to
> > have
> > 
> > > healthy colonies.  I suspect you do not want a list of corals that
> > happen
> > 
> > > to have always had low abundance.
> > > 
> > >   It will be relatively easy to query the Atlantic and Gulf Reefs
> > > Assessment data sets to see if higher than average mortality rates
> > > showing up for the species you list below (see: 
> > > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/agra/agra1.html).  In April many of us
> > be
> > 
> > > assembling in Fort Lauderdale to present data on the condition of 
> > > Caribbean reefs, perhaps you could get a consensus of opinions at
> > > time (see: http://www.nova.edu/ocean/ncri/cfp_1.html). 
> > > 
> > >   Good luck in your efforts.
> > > 
> > >   Bob Steneck
> > > 
> > > 
> > > >We have also examined several other western Atlantic coral species
> > might
> > > >merit inclusion as Candidate species.  They were not included in the
> > Federal
> > > >Register Notice since the information available was incomplete. 
> > > >include:
> > > >
> > > >Acropora prolifera
> > > >Dendrogyra cylindricus - pillar coral
> > > >Dichocoenia stokessi
> > > >Oculina varicosa
> > > >
> > > >Other species, such as the Porites porites complex, P. astreoides,
> > > >Montastraea annularis complex, M. cavernosa, Diploria strigosa, D. 
> > > >clivosa, and
> > > >D. labyrinthiformis appear to have undergone some declines at
> > > >sites, but
> > > >do not appear as threatened as the Acropora spp, at this time.
> > > 
> > > 
> > > ----------------------------
> > > Robert S. Steneck, Ph.D.
> > > Professor, School of Marine Sciences
> > > University of Maine
> > > Darling Marine Center
> > > Walpole, ME 04573
> > > 207 - 563 - 3146 ext. 233
> > > e-mail: Steneck at Maine.EDU
> > > 
> > > The School of Marine Sciences Web site:
> > > http://www.ume.maine.edu/~marine/marine.html
> > > 
> > > 

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