[Coral-List] Impact of listing 66 coral species on coral research

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri Dec 14 17:25:16 EST 2012

*it is time to read the NOAA materials that document the basis for their
decision, before accusing them of further errors.
*The decision was based on an evaluation of natural threats and
anthropogenic stressors, and also the features of each specific species,
such as life history and abundance.
*not all coral species were listed, because species differ greatly in their
likelihood of extinction.  Only a small part of all the world's reef coral
species were listed (8% total, less than 2% as endangered), likely because
if you listed all species, over 90% of those that would be listed would not
actually be endangered, which makes no sense.  The advantage of listing all
would have been that the problem of identifying species, a real problem,
would have been avoided.

I have to concur, the answer to what the decision to list was made on, may
be found in the various materials that NOAA has produced, accessible on the
websites Jennifer has pointed to.  It is time to do some homework.  If
people want to accuse them of various things, the least they need to do is
read some of the materials they produced to explain the basis for the
decision.  That seems a minimum for fairness.

As I re-read the Executive Summary for the Status Report, I found the
following statements (BRT = Biological Review Team):

"The BRT considered two major factors in conducting this review. The first
factor was the interaction of natural
phenomena and anthropogenic stressors that could potentially contribute to
coral extinction. After extensive review of
available scientific information, the BRT considers ocean warming, disease,
and ocean acidification to be the most
influential threats in posing extinction risks to the 82 candidate coral
species between now and the year 2100. Threats of local origin but having
widespread impact, such as sedimentation, nutrient enrichment, and fishing,
were considered of medium importance in determining extinction risks."

"The second major factor was the fundamental ecological character of each
candidate coral species—particularly life
history, taxonomy, and abundance."

Plus a LOT more details of what they considered in these two factors.
 ("extensive review" as it says in the first quote above is an
understatement, as you'll see when you look at the Status Report.  For
example, it has nearly 2000 references.  This was not done on a whim.
 There are also 3 reviews of the Status Report that you can download from
the web page, written by members of the "Center for Independent Experts"
all of whom are well known coral reef scientists.)

Figure ES-2 in the Executive Summary shows the ratings given by the
Biological Review team, based on the info in the Status Summary, for each
of the 82 species in the petition.  It contains the answer to the question
which a couple people have posed, namely, "Why weren't all species listed?"
 In a nutshell, the answer to that is that not all species are identical,
they differ in their prospects for the future.  This figure shows that
among the 82 petitioned species, they range from much more endangered, to
much less endangered.  The original Science paper that reported that 1/3 of
the World's reef coral species faced elevated levels of threat (based on
the IUCN Red List criteria) and the petition was based on, also found that
coral species varied widely in the level of threat, from "Critically
Endangered" to "Least Concern."  Thus, both studies found that not all
corals are endangered. In fact, NOAA chose to propose 66 species, most as
"threatened" out of the roughly 790 species of reef building corals
currently known in the world, or about 8% (1.8% as endangered).

The point about coral shipments entering the USA is correct.  Coral
identification is not easy, and it seems unlikely that US Customs agents
are experts in that.  However, there are people who can do that (at least
as well as it can be done currently).  Anyhow, this would be one possible
reason for considering listing all coral species, since then no one would
have to try to identify difficult species.  But then about 724 coral
species that didn't qualify as "threatened" let alone "endangered" would
have been listed.  My guess is that would lead to lawsuits, particularly by
anybody whose project was stopped because of species that weren't actually
endangered.  But more likely, the decision to not list all species was just
simply because only a few met the criteria for being listed, it makes
little sense to list species as endangered that aren't endangered.

Cheers,  Doug

On Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 1:57 AM, Jennifer Moore - NOAA Federal <
jennifer.moore at noaa.gov> wrote:

> I urge everyone with questions about the ESA process and how it was applied
> to these particular species, to read the Proposed Rule, and Status Review
> Report.  In those documents we lay out exactly how we determined the 66
> proposed species meet the definition of either threatened or endangered,
> and why the 2 Caribbean acroporids should be reclassified from threatened
> to endangered.  Also remember that we determined that 16 of the 82
> petitioned species do not meet the definition of threatened or endangered..
> Population size is one factor that we consider in making listing
> determinations; however, there are several other factors including the
> magnitude and certainty of threats to the species.  Further, in corals,
> particularly fragmenting species, it is virtually impossible to determine
> population size from visual census.  One must consider percent clonality
> when applying census data to population estimates.
> Please visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/82CoralSpecies.htm  and read
> the Federal Register Notice and supporting documents to understand the
> process by which we made our determination.  Also if anyone has questions
> for the NOAA staff who lead this proposal, please contact Lance Smith (
> lance.smith at noaa.gov), Chelsey Young (chelsey.young at noaa.gov), or me (
> jennifer.moore at noaa.gov).  We are happy to answer questions.
> Cheers,
> Jennifer
> --
> *Jennifer Moore
> ESA Coral Coordinator | Protected Resources Division
> NOAA Fisheries Service
> 263 13th Ave South
> Saint Petersburg, FL 33701
> 727-551-5797 phone | 727-824-5309 faxjennifer.moore at noaa.gov
> http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/acropora.htm*
> *http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/82CoralSpecies.htm*
> <http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/82CoralSpecies.htm>*
> To those who sacrificed careers of adventure in the wide-open spaces
> to wrestle for conservation in the policy arena. *
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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