[Coral-List] question about the expanded listing of coral species

Sarah Heberling Sarah.Heberling at noaa.gov
Thu Feb 25 12:26:33 EST 2010

Eric, Les, Concerned Parties --

The questions and comments you raise in your post are *exactly* why NMFS 
is conducting a status review of all species for which the petitioned 
action may be warranted.  Status reviews are comprehensive assessments 
of a species' biological status and its threats, and are the basis for 
making determinations as to whether a species warrants listing under the 
U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Thus, status reviews show us the whole 
picture of a species' status, including whether or not trade or 
commercial harvest are the primary contributors to a species decline 
(which for many species may not be the case, according to many of the 
Coral-list postings). 

To assist us in making sure that the points brought up in your post and 
others' are captured in our species status reviews, *please* provide 
your two cents on the data available for any of the 82 species here: 


Sarah E. Heberling
NOAA Fisheries Service
Phone: (727) 824-5312
Fax: (727) 824-5309
Email: Sarah.Heberling at noaa.gov
Web: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pr.htm

"What good is a used up world; and how could it be worth having?"

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>    1. Re: question about the expanded listing of	coral	species
>       (Eric Borneman)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 10:32:38 -0600
> From: Eric Borneman <eborneman at uh.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] question about the expanded listing of	coral
> 	species
> To: "Andrea A. Treece" <atreece at biologicaldiversity.org>
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID: <B3A4F3B2-44C0-41AC-9CF9-2A55AFE67043 at uh.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset=us-ascii
> Hi Andrea and Les,
> Les, you wrote...
>>> How were these particular species arrived at?  I might have just  
> missed it, but certain species that really are of serious concern  
> didn't seem to be there- for example, Agaricia tenuifolia, or a host  
> of regional endemics that might have made more logical first-ups for  
> such a list.
> Also, I am just wondering- what are the intended effects on the  
> aquarium hobby and trade?  The intention of adding some legal teeth to  
> the fight for 350 ppm I can understand, but to worry about over- 
> collection of live corals for the aquarium trade- or more importantly,  
> trade of aquacultured corals- in the same breath, while we have this  
> immense global problem as first priority, is peculiar. <<
> I couldn't agree more. In reviewing the list and then making comments, I wondered the same thing. I think there is more than ample evidence that some of these species should be considered for listing, but others that met the same threats and implied criteria were not on the proposed list. Some of the species truly are more sensitive to bleaching, COTS, disease, etc., but are so wildly abundant across a large range (a range that for many species is far outside areas of aquarium collection) that I questioned why those species and not others were chosen. Many of the species' range also extend to areas of least human impact (oceanic central Pacific), even if some of their  range is under heavy stress, leaving essentially the big global issues (bleaching, acification) as the principle threats.  In this sense, it becomes difficult not to argue that all species should be on the list.  
> Some of the species proposed are among those with high tolerance to suboptimal environments (i.e sedimentation tolerance) or to other stresses that were included as reasons for listing others on the list, but apparently not given points for being tolerant. As such, I found myself weighing each proposed species not only against my field observations, but also relatively among those on the list rather than relatively across all species in the proposed range of US waters. It seemed as though the threats/stresses were used only "points for listing in negative terms without consideration for the positive in terms of resilience, abundance, genetic diversity, recruitment potential, range, habitat provided (or other ecosystem function), degree to which they contribute to framework or degree of threat throughout their range. In some cases, life history traits (i.e. brooding) were used as factor supporting listing of some species because of dispersal limitation, but brooders are doing 
>  very well in areas where broadcast spawners aren't, and some of the most successful, tolerant and wide-ranging species are indeed brooders. 
> It seems in reading the proposed list that the direct and/or local anthropogenic stresses of aquarium collection was used or mentioned disproportionately to other (and likely more important) direct local and/or anthropogenic stresses. The Fed Reg notice nor the petition was clear on any weighting that would be rather essential in compiling a list since not all threats are equivalent in terms of posing a threat to a species, especially in light of potential ESA listing.  In terms of the aquarium trade, it is unfortunate for two reasons beyond those you already made; 1) there are not sufficient data to substantiate the actual threat to the species from the aquarium trade (and indeed several species of most concern from the aquarium trade are not on the list, but are found in US waters and are subject to the same habitat loss, and just about every other threat that was listed for those that are included) and 2) even with the data that do exist, aquarium collection - while indeed
>   a potential threat - pales by comparison with the amount of corals destroyed by blast fishing, yet this very common and massively destructive practice is limited to a single sentence as being important to only one region, and not to regions where it is very common -  regions of the coral triangle where the impact on biodiversity is much greater.  This is besides the fact that the literature and data used to assess the trade was limited, dated, and in some cases just factually wrong. We have essentially no data on Rhizopsammia, yet it is traded and in high demand and is not listed. Nemenzophyllia has been in trade for 30 years, is thought rare, and almost no information exists on the genus, and it is not on the list. The use of aquarium trade data as a threat important enough to be included as one that warrants ESA listing in this petition is dubious or poorly applied, at best. Acropora aculeus is common in the central Indo-Pacific facing the least threats, yet aquarium coll
>  ection is listed as a threat justifying in part an ESA listing where it is less common in collection areas. Finally, trade data from CITES only requires genus level identification. Any attempts to use species level quota data or even reported data on the many "impossible-to-distinguish while live" species in genera like Acropora, Montipora, Porites, etc. compounds determining the actual amount of threat that collection plays in many of the petitioned species. 
> Finally, there were numerous species that are highly susceptible to bleaching, sedimentation and other major stresses and/or with limited range (depth, or habitat or geographically) that I was sure would be on the proposed list, but weren't. In summary, there were some very valid species in need of enhanced protection, and the ESA may be the way to do this. In other cases, I just didn't agree with the rationale, that the existing literature would indicate that other species petitioned may not be ideal for ESA protection or any more deserving than listing all tropical scleractinia. 
> Furthermore, it seems odd that one of the essential criteria was that the species occurred in US waters, but  the petition used International (IUCN) criteria when there are numerous endemic and indeed extremely imperiled species that are not in US waters but could, theoretically, be traded. If the threats of this petition include trade that would be hopefully curbed and enforceable under the ESA or Lacey Act, then it would seem logical to include species outside US waters (example, the trade in Rhinoceros products versus the trade in  Brazil's Mussismillia were it to be listed). 
> As Doug Fenner wrote on this list in 2004 "Local extinctions can be a microcosm of global extinction (using Millepora boschmai and S. glynni as coral examples).  Local extinction of bumphead parrotfish on some islands in Fiji by spearfishing has been documented.  Further, there are many species on reefs that are endemic or restricted to small areas.  Those species can be particularly vulnerable to extinctions." Numerous coral species fit in this category, including endemics, but were excluded from the petition (e.g Montipora cryptus, M. taiwanensis, M hemispherica, M kellyi, M spongiosa, M pachytuberculata, M echinata, M aspergillus, in the genus Montipora alone) while many many more endemic to areas where coral collection is highest (e.g Indonesia) are not on the list.
> Andrea, when you say no intent to impact aquacultured corals, do you mean ex situ or in situ culture, because if the latter, there is currently no legal exemption language for mariculture - they are wild corals that have been fragmented and in some collection areas accounts for a large percentage of the total export. There are other issues, as well (see for example Bruckner 2001, Blundell and Mascia 2005, Nijman 2009). 
> Eric
> __________________________
> Eric Borneman
> Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry
> University of Houston

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