[Coral-List] The infamous 82 corals and what members of Coral-List ought to be doing about them

Andrea A. Treece atreece at biologicaldiversity.org
Wed Mar 3 12:59:31 EST 2010

Hi, Les et al.,
Thanks for the helpful comments and questions a number of you have raised.
Les is 100% right that any effort to protect corals under the Endangered
Species Act (or any other way, for that matter) has to be based on the best
available science.  Recognizing that, I'll echo Sarah's suggestion that
coral experts submit comments on the petition.  Your expertise can help
identify and prioritize threats for particular species, identify species we
missed, identify areas where we can build on existing research or
conservation efforts, etc.  
I'm offering the following explanation in the hopes that it clarifies what
the petition aims to accomplish - please bear with me on the legalese.
CBD's strategy with respect to listing coral species basically boils down to
establishing a strong legal hook to gain better protective measures for
corals. The most far-reaching provision of the ESA is Section 7, which
requires federal agencies to consult with NMFS regarding the effects of
projects they authorize, fund, or carry out on listed species and their
critical habitat.  For example, when the Army Corps wants to undertake a
dredging project that may affect a listed species, be it a coral or manatee
or sea turtle, they have to get NMFS's biological opinion on whether that
project would jeopardize the species or harm its critical habitat.  If NMFS
determines that it will, the project may be allowed to proceed with
modifications to avoid unsustainable impacts.  If not, the opinion still
generally provides for some monitoring of the situation and triggers for
"reconsultation" if the project turns out to have more severe impacts than
anticipated.  The opinion also generally contains an authorized incidental
take level - i.e. how many of a species may be lawfully taken without
causing jeopardy.  
In the coral context, the Section 7 consultation requirement should provide
a better handle for considering and decreasing a number of impacts on coral.
For example, water pollution permits or dredging permits in areas where
listed corals are found will have to account for the sensitivity of these
coral species.  That should result in more stringent permits, better water
quality, and mitigation.  Similarly, permits for construction of docks or
sea walls, or fishery management plans that may affect corals, would need to
account for any impacts to listed corals.  Addressing local threats in this
way should - we hope - increase the corals' resilience in response to larger
threats like climate change and ocean acidification. 


With regard to addressing climate change and acidification more directly,
this is admittedly a new frontier.  I'd say the best mechanism for
regulating greenhouse gas emissions would be the Clean Air Act or strong new
legislation directly aimed at GHG emissions.  That said, the ESA
consultation requirement could be extended to require major greenhouse gas
emitting projects that need a federal permit also need to first analyze the
impacts to corals. This could result in emissions reductions or other
measures that help conserve corals.  Whether or not a particular project
would be subject to any consultation or mitigation requirements (in the GHG
context or any other) depends on whether the best available science shows
that it will affect or harm the species.  

I do want to point out that all of this does not necessarily require a bunch
of lawsuits.  If an agency or private entity doesn't comply with the ESA
(e.g., decides to dredge up a bunch of coral without a valid take permit),
the law allows citizens to enforce it with a lawsuit.   Ideally, though, the
consultation process is a careful, science-based process that provides
whatever protection is needed from project impacts without the need for


Finally, we believe that ESA-listing for corals is only one part of a suite
of conservation measures that are needed to protect corals.  It's not meant
to take the place of local, on-the-ground restoration projects and certainly
not meant as a substitute for further research.  As I mentioned before, we
believe listing could actually help direct more resources to those sorts of
direct conservation projects, much as it has for other listed species like
sea turtles.  At the end of the day, our ability to protect corals under the
law depends directly on how well we understand them and their environment.  

Thanks again for your interest.  




From: Les Kaufman [mailto:lesk at bu.edu] 
Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 10:54 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Cc: atreece at biologicaldiversity.org; sbergman at biologicaldiversity.org;
rbraz at biologicaldiversity.org; tcurry at biologicaldiversity.org;
ngreenwald at biologicaldiversity.org; ckilduff at biologicaldiversity.org;
jmiller at biologicaldiversity.org; miyoko at biologicaldiversity.org;
rsilver at biologicaldiversity.org; ksuckling at biologicaldiversity.org
Subject: The infamous 82 corals and what members of Coral-List ought to be
doing about them


Dear Martin, Gene, and everyone,


Regarding the 82 corals: there are basically three things that members of
this community can do relevant to brightening the future for coral reefs and


1. We can put energy into policy to fight and adapt to climate change.

2. We can put energy into policy that harmonizes local human activities with
coral reef health and resilience.

3. We can do the science that is the guidance system and provides
accountability for the policies enacted in pursuit of #1 and #2.


All three are required, in synchrony.


Diplomats and lawyers ride point on #1.

Conservationists and lawyers are shotgun on #2.

Scientists (no lawyers, please!) are responsible for #3, plus they ought to
learn how to talk good.


The Center for Biological Diversity is strong in law.  Obviously, there was
a logic that listing a bunch of corals that live in US waters would provide
legal handles to move peoples' behavior toward doing things good for coral
reefs.  It might channel good outcomes through #1, but can definitely do so
through #2.  So the aim was off a bit, so it's a funky list borrowed from a
different (IUCN) exercise; maybe CBD figures with a nuclear device you don't
need precision aim, though you'd better be ready for collateral damage, both
to the ESA and to relationships between scientists and activists.


Oh wait I forgot, Martin wanted this to be a car, not a war.  Okay, so we
can make sure the car runs and handles well so we keep it from crashing into
a brick wall.  In other words, we can encourage excellent watershed and
marine resource management, maximizing coral reef resilience.  Threatening
to sue people if they screw up the watershed or the health of functionally
key species is one way to do this.  I'm not so sure we should be
discouraging CBD from following this route, even if it takes a moment's
thought to see the logic of it.


So: can we help CBD identify the flashpoints that will ignite if the 82
species are listed?  What would be the coherent legal strategy to drag the
US by this one handle into an era of coral reef renaissance?

What scientific ammunition would be needed to make this work?  


If we know the rules of the game, and the strategy is an impressive one, why
not play on the winning team?


I think CBD should explain its complete stratey to this group and enlist the
support of whoever happens to agree.  The rest can choose a different number
or handle.





Les Kaufman

Professor of Biology

Boston University Marine Program


Senior PI

Marine Management Area Science

Conservation International


Message: 2
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 11:30:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] question about the expanded listing of coral
To: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>,
          coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <763932.83924.qm at web112113.mail.gq1.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8

Dear Gene,
Your recent post put words to many of my thoughts.
Basically, if you allow me a rough analogy, it doesn?t help much to put new
tires on a car if the motor is broken, except maybe to sell it. With a
Florida coral reef, it
doesn?t help the reefs as a whole very much to monitor the decline, and set
coral fragments if the ecology of the reef is broken. Now don?t get me
it is critically important to do everything we can to learn about our reefs
monitoring and science, and to do everything we can to enhance coral growth
identifying resilient genotypes and putting them out on the reefs. But in
long run, if you don?t fix the motor, the car won?t work, and if we don?t
the ecology, our coral reefs will continue to decline.

Back in 2001 Ken Nedimyer and I came to the same conclusion
but from different perspectives, that return of the urchin Diadema
antillarum was
critical to restoration of the ecology of Florida?s coral reefs. We knew
that this had
to be demonstrated, so we did a bare bones study, funded by FKNMS, on four
patch reefs off the Upper Keys, two experimental and two controls. Through
translocation of juvenile Diadema from unstable rubble zones, we were able
maintain populations of about 1 per sq. meter on the two experimental reefs
a year. Benthic assessments were done on all four reefs before deployment of
urchins and one year later. As you might expect, algae decreased and coral

The results of this study are posted on the Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary website.


We don?t know the future of our reefs; we can only do what
makes sense, and what is possible. The return of herbivory, restoring the
ecological balance between coral and algae growth is essential to a healthy
ecology on a coral reef. If this can be done, it would be the best thing I
imagine to provide the coral reefs with the resilience to best withstand the
current and future problems that face our reefs. Algae and corals war for
and light and without herbivory, algae wins. The return of the keystone
Diadema antillarum, in ecologically functional and reproductively effective
populations is our best, our only, proactive ecological measure we can
for ecological restoration. Restoration of Diadema on selected, highly
reefs would be the best start. And this can be done if we can mass produce
hatcheries the thousands of Diadema that will be necessary, and then do the
research necessary to learn how to prepare them for survival on the reefs
at what size. This can be done if we but make the effort. I have been
successful in developing the technology for mass production of Diadema
to the early juvenile stage. Mass survival through the early juvenile stage
into the stable early feeding juvenile remains to be accomplished, but the
difficult aspects of the technology, larvae rearing, has been worked out.
Marine Laboratory, the FWRI South Florida Regional Laboratory in Marathon,
FL, and Tom Capo
at the University of Miami are working with
me to develop this technology to a functional level. It is important,
that this effort continues because it represents the last, best hope for
restoration of our Atlantic coral reefs. So far, funding has been barely
for early development of the technology. Funding appropriate to the scope
and significance
of the project is necessary.

Martin Moe

----- Original Message ----
From: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Thu, February 25, 2010 12:23:11 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] question about the expanded listing of coral


My concerns about the CBDs proposed threatened coral species action 

certainly created some interest among list readers.  I had hoped 

that by discussing this issue someone would come forward and explain 

how the listing would save those species when listing of Acropora 

appeared to have done little. Like Eric Borneman, I wanted to know 

who and how the species were selected.  What I heard through the 

list responses was that "it would make people aware of the problem." 

Unfortunately that will not save any corals since they are not being 

collected or molested in any significant way. There really is no 

action that would change Caribbean-wide diseases and water quality 

issues in the short term. What worries me the most  is that the 

Florida Keys are already a marine sanctuary that protects all 

species of corals including those that are not included in the 82 

species.  Will having NMFS list them  save those in Florida? Maybe 

they are directing this listing outside of Florida? I think we are 

all aware that  If Co2 emissions were to cease tomorrow it might 

take about 50 years before atmospheric and sea water levels returned 

to pre industrial levels. If that's what is killing them (we really 

do not know what is killing them in the Caribbean) then they would 

already be dead by then.

What we have heard from the CBD attorney on the list was a simply a 

legal explaination of their action. There was no suggestion as to 

how NMFS can save corals from storms, and a region wide 

disease/water quality problem. I did a little checking and found 

that the CBD has been very successful in badgering governments and 

using our tax money to do so. During its 20-year exisence CBD has 

wone close to 90 percent of its 500 cases! For more see the book 

"Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers and Millionaires Who Are Saving 

Our Planet." I asked the question earlier, "where do they get their 

funding" A little investigation revealed a lot. Here is a quote from 

Budd-Falen Law Offices of Cheyenne, Wyoming document, "Just between 

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Mexico, 

and Washington, the CBD has amassed $6,709,467 in attorneys fees all 

paid by the taxpayers. That's a pretty good business. I will send 

the full statement to those who request it. For more about the 

attorneys and who makes CBD tick go to 

<http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/opinion/113415.php> and finally 

for a lot of fun go to this site 

<http://www.endangeredspeciescondoms.com/> and learn about CBD birth 

control devices. I can't wait to order my Staghorn package. Gene PS: 

The tucsoncitizen website has been removed since I read it yesterday.





No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)

------------------------------------ -----------------------------------

E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor

University of South Florida

Marine Science Center (room 204)

140 Seventh Avenue South

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>

Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 




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