[Coral-List] 82 Corals Status Review under the US Endangered Species Act

Douglas Fenner douglasfenner at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 6 00:57:53 EDT 2012


    For some additional information on
the Endangered Species Act listing of the CaribbeanAcropora, I would recommend Bruckner
(2003) and Precht et al. (2004).
    I notice you say
that the Endangered Species Act did not stop the “demise” of Acropora in the Florida Keys
sanctuary.  That’s an interesting choice
of words, since the Act is NOT the “Demise of Species Act.”  Did that genus go extinct in the Keys???  I suspect not, I’ve seen it there
myself.  If you said “decline” you might
be right, but “demise” might be taken by readers as suggesting
“extinction.”  Careful and explicit
wording could avoid readers being misled.
    You say that
“Listing certainly will not bring those species back to full health.”  I would suggest that is far less certain than
you state.  Read on to see why.
    Common sense may
say that “if you don’t know what’s killing something, then what do you protect
it from?”, but then science isn’t always just common sense.  Common sense says the world is flat- look out
the window at the water and it sure looks flat.  Science often produces results that don’t fit with our “common sense”
view of the world..  The physical world of
the very small violates our common sense notions in almost every way, as seen
in quantum electrodynamics.  Science is
about gathering evidence to find out what the world is really like, as opposed
to what our common sense notions of it are.
      The primary
cause of the huge decrease in abundances of the genus Acropora in the western Atlantic has been
from disease, from what I have read.  That fits with what you are saying.  The infective disease agent (if there is one) would be the “proximal
cause” of the decline of the Acropora.  The “ultimate causes” may be quite different,
so although infective agent “X” may be the active factor in the disease, the
reason that the disease has become much more common than in the past in the
western Atlantic might be human sewage, nutrients coming from the Orinoco river
and many other sources around the Caribbean, increased temperatures, African
dust, or any of a wide variety of other causes.  The Orinoco river plume and African dust are not
likely to be the sources of declines in the Pacific and Indian Ocean,
where the vast majority of the world’s coral reefs are located.
       It would seem
to be a matter of common sense that humans aren’t responsible for diseases in
corals, and that there is nothing we can do about them.  I believe that it might be good to rethink
that.  For example, there is quite a bit
of evidence that higher temperatures lead to more coral disease, and more
killing of coral by disease (e.g., Jones et al. 2004; Bruno et al. 2007;
Sutherland et al. 2010).  Coral disease
outbreaks have also been observed following bleaching events (e.g., Muller et
al. 2008, Wilkinson and Souter, 2008).  Slightly higher temperatures than average summer highs also disrupt
development and lower larval survival and settlement of A. palmata (Randall & Szmant, 2009).  Sea surface temperatures are rising as are
global temperatures, and are predicted to increase significantly further.  The vast majority (97%) of 1000 climate
scientists who are publish the most think that the evidence shows that humans
are the main cause of warming in recent decades.  Even if they were wrong, the simple physics
of CO2 absorbing infrared radiation means that the steady and rapid increases
in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere produced by humans adds to the
temperature, because all sources of heating and cooling add to the resultant
temperature.  The point is, humans are
causing warming, and warming increases coral diseases, and so humans are
helping to cause the diseases that are killing corals, and humans could do
something about it if they wanted to.
       I note in
passing that you state “increasing levels of CO2 that have been rising and currently approaching 0.004 percent of the atmosphere”.  I presume that the reason you say this is to
imply that CO2 is such a small part of the atmosphere, that it doesn’t have
such a huge effect as global warming (but then as a provocateur you like to
imply things without saying them explicitly).  If you think about it, nerve gases produced by military forces can kill
people with very few molecules.  The
effect of a chemical on living organisms isn’t simply determined by its
concentration.  Each chemical has a
different strength, some require large amounts to cause effects, and some do in
very small amounts.  CO2 can act to
absorb infrared radiation in rather small concentrations, methane can do so in
even smaller concentrations, and so on.  They are helped by an atmosphere that is quite
a few miles thick, the thickness and density determine the amount of CO2 that
the infrared must pass through, not just the concentration.  Small concentration in a sufficiently thick
layer can absorb a lot. You also refer to the view that global warming is
produced by human-produced greenhouse gases as “That is a worldwide highly
contentious political issue that will not be resolved soon.”  It certainly is a highly contentious
political issue in the US
and that issue will not be resolved soon, however the scientific question of
whether global warming is produced by humans is very well settled, as evidenced
by 97% of the 1000 most published climate scientists saying that the evidence
shows that humans are producing global warming..  Same thing true with evolution, the scientific question was answered
long ago, there are huge amounts of evidence showing it is real, but in the
U.S., particularly among more religious people, there are large numbers of
people who do not think evolution is well supported (and generally have not
looked at the actual facts).  Things that
are politically popular are not necessarily true, and can often be contrary to
the scientific evidence.
       A related
effect is that ocean acidification decreases recruitment success in Acropora palmata (Albright et al. 2010).  Ocean acidification is caused by CO2 produced
by humans dissolving in sea water, producing acid.
       Another line of
evidence indicates that one of the diseases (“white pox) killing Acropora is caused by a bacterium (Serratia marcescens) that comes from the
digestive systems of mammals, including humans.  A recent study (Sutherland et al. 2010) found that a unique strain (PDR60)
of that bacterium is found in Acropora white pox, in the water, in humans, and in sewage.  So human sewage is likely the ultimate cause
of this disease that is killing Acropora.  Again, humans are causing the disease, and
humans could prevent that, if they so chose.
     So quite contrary
to “common sense,” humans are helping to cause the death of CaribbeanAcropora, and they could actually do
something about it if they wanted to.
       Corals, like
other organisms, are not only subject to just one threatening health
problem.  It is often said that some of
the main threats to coral reefs are overfishing, sedimentation, nutrients,
global warming, and acidification.  Main
threats.  But there are many many more
minor threats.  Boat groundings as you
have mentioned, construction projects, chemical pollution, boat anchors, people
walking or sitting on corals, the list is nearly endless.  It is quite possible for reefs to “die the
death of a thousand cuts.”  I contend
that is not good cause for standing by and letting it happen.
      The fact is,
that while the two species of Acropora that were listed as “threatened” under the endangered species act in the
Western Atlantic have decreased in abundance greatly primarily due to disease,
most of the 82 species listed were not petitioned because they were threatened by
disease, but in most cases because of other factors which we do know the cause
of, and which are correctable.
       A reading of
the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity asking for listing 83
species of coral reveals the causes that they say threaten these species.  Their petition was based on an article that
was published in Science, in which a large number of authors reviewed the
available evidence for all currently recognized reef building coral species,
and found that a third of them had “heightened” risk of extinction, according
to the criteria of the IUCN Red List (Carpenter, et al. 2008).  The IUCN Red List criteria were put together
by scientists who are experts in the science of species extinctions, and the
rationale published in peer-reviewed literature (Mace and Lande, 1991; Mace et
al. 2008; also see Musick, 1999).  The
Carpenter et al (2008) review of the status of all reef corals was the first of
its kind ever conducted for corals, though reviews have been conducted for
other groups of organisms such as birds, mammals, amphibians, and so on.  The data available for that sort of review is
much more sparse than anyone would like.  It is actually strongest for many Caribbean
corals, where documentation of the coral population trends over time
exist.  For many Indo-Pacific coral
species, data on trends over time are not available yet for individual species
of coral.  We are actually lucky to now
have a fairly good idea what the species are for the first time, thanks to
people like Charlie Veron, Carden Wallace, Bert Hoeksema, Richard Randall, and
quite a few others.  The Red List
criteria were designed to make it possible to predict extinction risk even
though one type of data is not available, by using a different type of
data.  If you do a search on IUCN Red
List, you can find the criteria on their website.  Some of the criteria are about a decline in
abundance over a certain period of time, others have to do with the small
absolute size of the population (so if only a few thousand individuals exist
the species may be endangered even if a decline has not been demonstrated),
other criteria have to do with the range (if the range of the species is tiny,
the species is endangered even if a decline has not been demonstrated).  That sort of thing.
      Designation of
endangered status by the IUCN Red List criteria has nothing to do with the
causes of why the species is endangered, that’s a different question.  Important for sure.  Also, the IUCN Red List is international, but
has absolutely no force of law.  This is
quite different from the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which only covers the U.S.,
but does have legal teeth. The criteria for the U.S. Endangered Species Act are
not nearly as specific and rigorous as in the IUCN Red List.  In the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is not
necessary to prove that a species is likely to become extinct throughout its
range, just “a significant part” of its range.  In fact, the IUCN Red List does not require proof of that either.  However, for the US Endangered Species Act,
marine invertebrates are assumed to have such wide dispersal that any local
population that went extinct would be replenished by larval input from other
places.  (That view should probably be
re-examined based on more recent evidence that many species are primarily
self-seeding and long distance dispersal may not be frequent.  Also, it applies to marine fish as well.)  But in any case, for marine invertebrates,
you are correct that the species must be likely to become extinct in the entire
range of the species to be declared endangered under the Endangered Species
Act.  The fact is that global extinction
often happens by a process of local extinctions.  A species is made up of populations, and a
species can go extinct by one population at a time going extinct, with the
remaining populations at any one time not declining until they suddenly go
extinct.  So the process of going extinct
can happen even though there are individual populations that remain in good shape
at any one time until the final extinction.  So it makes sense that proof of all populations of a species being
endangered is not necessary to find that the species as a whole is endangered,
unless there is strong, long-distance dispersal.
     By the way, some
other countries besides the U.S.
have some kind of endangered species act.  I know that Australia
has one, for instance.
     So back to the
petition by the CBD.  By the way, that was a petition, not a
suit.  That is a request for a review of
the species and requires no court action.  Such petitions are common for terrestrial species in the U.S.,
but less common for marine.  The petition
for 83 species of coral is the largest petition ever filed, by a long shot for
marine species.  Sea turtles are an
example of species that have received designation as endangered species.  The Endangered Species Act states that the
government must rule on petitions within 12 months of the petition being filed.  Because of the case load, the government
doesn’t always meet that date.  NMFS did
not meet the 12 month deadline for the 82 species filing.  CBD then filed suit to force them to
decide.  The two sides reached an
agreement to quickly release the report of the committee that considered the
petitions and gathered additional scientific evidence, and to release a
decision by Dec. 1, 2012.  Comments are now open, and the deadline for
comments is July 31.
      The original
Carpenter article in Science based the designation of many of the species they
reviewed as in some threatened category (such as “critically endangered”
“endangered” or “threatened”) based partly on declines of coral reefs in
different parts of the world where those species are known to exist, and partly
on predicted declines of reefs based on projected future impacts of climate
change.  The observed declines of the
coral reefs were a proxy for declines in numbers of individuals of the coral
species living in those coral reef habitats.  So it was used as a substitute for direct population measures of
decreases in individual species.  We
would have preferred direct measures for individual species, hopefully in the
future better data will be available and the analysis can be refined.  But the old “precautionary principle” says
that if there is reason to believe a resource is threatened, best to protect it
while you are getting better evidence.  That way you won’t loose your resource while you are waiting for
absolute proof (which you will likely never get).  If people had been more proactive and precautionary,
maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now.  But the Carpenter et al paper was based on the best science available at
that time on this subject.
       The CBD
petition builds on the Carpenter paper, and has a fairly large section on
climate change.  This is because most
scientists agree that the greatest future threat to coral reefs and to corals
is climate change, primarily mass coral bleaching.  The fact that the high sea surface
temperatures in the 1998 El Nino that killed about 16% of the world’s corals
and devastated some Indian Ocean reefs, put together with the trend of
increasing temperatures and the steady increase in greenhouse gases that are
the primary cause of the increase in temperatures, added to the fact that the
world’s governments have done little to control greenhouse gas emissions and
there is little prospect of them doing so anytime soon, all together implies a
high threat that high sea surface temperatures are coming in the future which
will likely kill large amounts of coral.  Killing large amounts of coral will reduce populations and thus could
well move species closer to extinction.
the CBD petition DOES identify causes for
the decline of coral species, particularly projected into the future.  There are many causes of the decline of coral
reefs and the corals living on those reefs, such as sedimentation, nutrients,
overfishing, global warming and acidification.  And those causes do have correctable human causes.  It is true that it is possible that the listing
will have unintended side effects, however, to my knowledge the listing of the
two Acropora species in the Caribbean
has not caused great problems.  In fact,
almost every invention or discovery has unintended consequences.  Name me one drug that does not have side
effects, they all do, most have many.  The question is not whether there are unintended side effects, but what
they are, how common they are, and how damaging they are.  We choose to continue to use many things for
which we know now that they have many unintended side effects that we don’t
like.  That goes for many drugs and other things, and actually goes for fossil
fuels, of course, such as things like air pollution from burning coal was bad
enough at one point in London to cause many deaths, car exhaust from burning
gasoline is a common problem in cities and was famous at one point in Los
Angeles, and so on.  And of course, an
unintended side effect of burning fossil fuels (and an number of other things
like cutting forests, eating large amounts of meat, and so on) is increases in
temperature and acidification caused by the CO2 released.  Those effects are far larger than listing any
corals on the Endangered Species Act, yet fossil fuel use is increasing.
       It is just
plain NOT true that the US
federal government pays the legal fees of NGO’s that petition for endangered
species status or sue for listing when listing is denied.
       The comment
about the need for an “Endangered Ecosystem Act” is a pertinent one (Franklin,
1993).  Indeed.  Some in the U.S.
may remember the Spotted Owl controversy.  Spotted Owls are an endangered species that require old growth (ancient,
uncut) forest in the US
west, to nest in.  There was a petition
or suit (I don’t remember the details) to require the protection of old growth
forest as critical habitat for the Spotted Owl as an endangered species.  There seems little doubt that the Spotted Owl
was a tool to try to get protection for the few tiny scraps of old growth
forest that remained outside National Parks in the U.S.
west, to be protected.  A similar
motivation may be present in the successful effort to get Polar Bears listed as
endangered species, since they require Arctic Ice habitat, and that is melting
rapidly due to global warming.  Another
example closer to home is the CITES listing of corals.  CITES is an international agreement which
regulates the transport of species between countries.  It has no effects on transport within
countries.  Nations that are signatories
to CITES agree to require permits for importing listed species.  There is an A list for highly endangered
species and a difficult process to get a permit to move them.  That covers things like Pandas.  Then there is a B species list where a permit
is required, but the country the species comes from just has to certify by the
permit that the species will not be adversely affected by exporting the
species.  ALL corals are listed on the B
list, whether there is any evidence they are in any way threatened or not.  Clearly this is not to protect individual
species, but to protect a whole ecosystem, the coral reef ecosystem, from
rampant removal of huge quantities of coral.  Entire boatloads were being removed, killed, cleaned, shipped (primarily
to the U.S.) where they were often spray painted with neon colors and sold in
shell shops, and then taken home to gather dust and eventually be thrown in the
trash.  There is also a large trade in
live corals for aquaria, where almost all the corals eventually die (though a
few are propagated and given to others to propagate and spread widely among
aquariasts).  Actually the Endangered
Species Act contains explicit wording indicating that an appropriate use of the
act is to protect ecosystems.  At one
point it says the purpose is “to provide a means by the ecosystems upon which
endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved”
      There is a
lively discussion in the peer-reviewed literature over whether the endangered
species act is effective in protecting species (e.g., Rohlf, 1991; Tear, et al.
1995; Brown and Shogren, 1998; Clark et al. 2002; Taylor et al. 2005; Ferraro
et al. 2007, all of these easily found with a Google Scholar search on
“Endangered Species Act effectiveness”, and available free on the web).  Indeed, only a few species have recovered so
well that they have been removed from the endangered status.  However, some have shown good increases, such
as green sea turtles in Hawaii
where they are well protected, and bald eagles and peregrine falcons after DDT
was banned in the U.S.  And very few of the species that have been
protected by endangered species status have gone extinct, while many species
that have been petitioned have gone extinct while waiting for a decision on
their status, when decisions have been greatly delayed (Senior, 2004).  One way for opponents of the act to make it
ineffective is to provide so little funding that species can’t be evaluated and
decisions made.
      I contend that
coral reefs have many things that have damaged them, and many things that
threaten them in the future.  I contend
that we need to work to reduce all of these threats.  Some are greater threats than others, and one
of the greatest is global warming, and it acts directly to kill corals in mass
bleaching events, which decreases coral populations and moves them closer to
extinction..  I contend that the
Endangered Species Act has been shown to be effective in preventing the
extinction of species that are protected, that most of the threats to coral
species like global warming, sediment, nutrients, overfishing, etc are things
that we CAN do something about.  And I
contend that the Endangered Species Act is one of many different tools that are
useful in trying to save coral reefs.  No
one tool is a panacea.  Each tool fits a
specific, different purpose.  People who
don’t like MPAs often say they aren’t a panacea.  Very true, I don’t know anyone who ever said
they were.  (You do not say what you mean
when you use the word “protected.”  There
are many different things that corals may, or may not, be protected from.  An MPA like a National Sanctuary, may (may)
protect against fishing, and may protect against removing corals, but it is
unlikely to be able to protect against sedimentation, nutrients, disease and especially
global warming and acidification.  No one
should assume when you say they are “protected” that they are actually
protected from all threats.)  But MPAs
are useful tools for trying to manage reef fisheries so they don’t damage reefs
and to conserve fish stocks for the future.  There is no reason to expect them to take care of other problems like
sediment runoff or nutrients, any more than you expect to tighten a bold with a
screwdriver.  Different tools fit different
jobs, you need more than one.  The
Endangered Species Act is a tool that works for some problems, the data show it
is effective.  But we need to work on all
the problems, with all the tools.  
      Doug Fenner

Dept Marine & Wildlife Resources
American Samoa, USA

All of the following references are available free online,
and can be found on Google Scholar.
Albright, R., Mason, B.., Miller, M., Langdon, C.  2010.  Ocean
acidification compromises recruitment success of the threatened Caribbean
coral Acropora palmata. Proceedings
of the NationalAcademy
of Sciences of the United States of America
107 (47): 20400-20404.
Bruckner, A.W.  2003.  Proceedings of the CaribbeanAcropora workshop: Potential
application of the U.S. Endangered Species Act as a conservation strategy.  NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-24.  199 pp.
Brown, G.M., Shogren, J.F. 1998. Economics of the endangered
species act.  Journal of Economic
Perspectives 12(3): 3-20.
Bruno, J.F., Selig, E.R.., Casey, K.S., Page, C.A., Willis, B.L.,
Harvell, C.D., Sweatman, H., Melendy, A.M.   2007.  Thermal stress and coral
cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks.  Public Library of Science Biology, 5, e124, 1220-1227.
Carpenter, K. E., Abrar M., Aeby G., Aronson R., Bruckner
A., Delbeek C., DeVantier
 L., Edgar G., Edwards
A., Fenner, D. and 29 others.  2008.  One third of reef building
 corals face elevated
extinction risk from climate change and local impacts.  Science
Clark, J.A., Hoekstra, J.M., Boersma,
P.D.  2002.  Improving US Endangered Species Act recovery
plans: key findings and recommendations of the SCB recovery plan project.  Conservation Biology 16 (6): 1510-1519.
Ferraro, P.J., McIntosh, C., Ospina, M. 2007.  The effectiveness of the U.S.
endangered species act:  An econometric
analysis using matching methods.  Journal
of Environmental Economics and Management 54: 245-261.
J.F.  1993.  Preserving biodiversity: species, ecosystems,
or landscapes?  Ecological Applications
3(2): 202-205.
Jones, R.J., Bowyer, J., Hoegh-Guldburg, O., Blackall,
L.L.  2004.  Dynamics of a temperature-related coral
disease outbreak.  Marine Ecology
Progress Series 281: 63-77.
Mace, G.M., Lande, R. 1991.  Assessing extinction threats: toward a reevaluation of IUCN threatened
species categories.  Conservation Biology
5 (2): 148-157.
Mace, G.M., Collar, M.J., Gaston, K.J., Hilton-Taylor, C.,
Akcakaya, H.R., Leader-Williams, N., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Stuart, S.N.   2008.   Quantification of extinction risk: IUCN’s system for classifying
threatened species.  Conservation Biology
22 (6): 1424-1442.
Muller, E.M., Rogers, C.S., Spitzak, A.S., van Woesik, R. 2008.  Bleaching increases likelihood of disease on Acropora palmata (Lamarck) in HawksnestBay, St John, USVirgin Islands.  Coral Reefs 27: 191-195.
Musick, J.A.  1999.  Criteria to define risk in
marine fishes.   Fisheries 24 (12): 6-14.
Precht, W.F.,
Robbart, M.L., Aronson, R.B.  2004.  The potential listing of Acropora species under the US Endangered Species Act.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 49: 534-536.
Randall, C.J.,
Szmant, A.M.  2009.  Elevated temperature affects development,
survivorship, and settlement of the elkhorncoral, Acropora
palmata (Lamark 1816).  Biological
Bulletin 217: 269-282.
Rohlf, D.J.  1991.  Six biological reasons why
the endangered species act doesn’t work- and what to do about it.  Conservation Biology 5(3): 273-282.
Senior, K. 2004.  Delays caused 107 species extinctions in the US.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
2(5): 229.
Sutherland, K.P.,
Porter, J.W., Turner, J.W., Thomas, B.J., Looney, E.E., Luna, T.P., Meyers,
M.K., Futch, J.C., Lipp, E.K.  2010.  Human sewage identified as a likely source of
white pox of the threatened Caribbeanelkhorncoral, Acropora
palmata. Environmental Microbiology 12(5): 1122-1131. 
Taylor, M.F.J.,
Suckling, K.F., Rachlinsky, J.F. 2005.  The effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A quantitative
analysis.  Bioscience 55(4): 360-367.
Tear, T.H., Scott, J.M., Hayward,
P.H., Griffith, B.   1995.  Recovery plans and the endangered species act: are criticisms supported
by data?  Conservation Biology 9(1):
Wilkinson, C., Souter, D. (eds.) 2008.  Status of Caribbean
coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005.  Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef
and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, Australia.  152pp.    

 From: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 4:07 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] 82 Corals Status Review under the US Endangered Species Act
Well here we go again! The Center for Biodiversity has masterminded 
yet another misuse of the Endangered Species Act by suing 
NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service to list 82 species of corals. 
It wouldn't be an unwarranted move if there were scientific certainty 
about what is causing their demise. Common sense says, "If you don't 
know what's killing something, then what do you protect it from?" 
That was the case back when CBD forced endangered status on Acropora 
species several years ago. Did listing of Acropora stop the demise of 
that genus in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where all 
coral species are protected? The answer is no. Ironically, even then 
there were areas in the Caribbean where the genus flourished, and 
there are still areas where it flourishes. Curiously, A. cervicornis 
is growing magnificently suspended in the water column on lines in 
Ken Nedimyer's coral nursery within FKNMS. They and other acroporids 
just do not grow well on coral reefs where they flourished until the 
late 1970s. There is also good evidence now that the white-band 
disease that wiped out Acropora is caused by a bacterial infection. 
Unfortunately listing did not get rid of the mystery microbe. Quite 
likely it is disease-resistant genotypes that have remained resistant 
to the disease. That would explain why geological research indicates 
there have been two major extinctions of A. cervicornis and rebirths 
in the FKNMS during the past 6,000 years (Shinn et al. 2003; Shinn 
2004). Acropora growth rate, if unchecked, would have allowed it to 
grow as much as 600 ft. vertically during the period that Florida 
reefs have existed.
      So now it is 82 coral species the CBD is using to advance their 
cause, eight of which are Caribbean species. Since I have conducted 
geological and growth-rate research in the Caribbean, it is best that 
I restrict my comments to those species. First, I think we can all 
agree that dredging or ship groundings can smother any of the species 
of concern. Such incidents are of limited extent, and they are 
preventable and can be controlled. Unfortunately, listing them as 
threatened or endangered cannot abate the widespread death of 
Caribbean coral species due to disease. Listing is therefore a 
totally useless act that likely may have unintended or sinister 
preplanned consequences. 
     Black-band disease has devastated the Montastraea group of 
corals, yet we do not know the causes both in Florida and around 
sparsely populated islands of the Caribbean. Listing certainly will 
not bring those species back to full health. The same can be said 
about Dendrogyra cylindrus that is distributed throughout the 
Caribbean but never in great abundance. Colonies of that coral still 
grow in the FKNMS where all corals are protected. That species never 
was abundant in the 50+ years the author has been diving there (Shinn 
2011). Dichocoenia stokesii is a minor component on reefs that 
automatically dies when it reaches the size of a soccer ball. Many 
died from what was called white plague (a form of bleaching that 
started at the base of the coral) in the 1980s. One can still find 
healthy Dichocoenia, and there is little disease today. Furthermore, 
it is not a significant reef builder. I have no idea why Agaricia 
lamarcki or Mycetophyllia ferox are included on the list. They 
certainly are not keystone reef builders, and I am certain they are 
not threatened throughout their range. As I remember from the first 
attempt to list D. cylindrus back in the 1970s, a species must be 
threatened throughout its range to qualify for E.S.A listing. One has 
to wonder about the benefit of listing these corals since it simply 
creates more rules and regulations, not to mention paper, time, and 
effort, and be ineffective at saving these species. We can all 
remember the Caribbean-wide demise of the urchin Diadema antillarum 
in the early 1980s some 30 years ago. Diadema remains rare and 
nowhere near its former abundance. Had that pivotal coral reef 
organism been listed in the 1980s, would it have been brought back to 
pre die-off levels? Of course not! Acropora cervicornis died off at 
roughly the same time as Diadema. If A. cervicornis had been listed 
back in the 1980s, would it be flourishing today? One has to wonder 
what the coral reef and the CBD benefits from listing of these corals?
      I suspect what is behind the proposed listing is coral bleaching 
that may be caused by a warming ocean that the IPCC and Al Gore say 
is caused by increasing levels of CO2 that have been rising and 
currently approaching 0.004 percent of the atmosphere. That is a 
worldwide highly contentious political issue that will not be 
resolved soon. Is that why the CBD wants these corals listed? Or is 
it the threat of alkalinity shift, a.k.a. ocean acidification? All 
thinking people know that CO2 will stay in the atmosphere and oceans 
for many years if anthropogenic sources ceased tomorrow. The lawyers 
at CBD surely are aware of that. Maybe their action is a way to 
squeeze tax-exempted funding from gullible and frightened citizens? 
What is their motive or motives? Why is CBD doing this? Is there some 
collusion between CBD/lawyers and the government agencies that will 
squeeze more money from Congress to administer the extra burden of 
enforcement? I do know that whether they win or lose their lawsuit 
against NOAA, our taxes pay their legal fees. Now that's a pretty 
cynical motive but as they say, "follow the money." And finally, why 
is National Marine Fisheries involved with coral protection, 
especially within NOAA Marine Sanctuaries where all corals are 
already protected? If there is government waste and overlap, then 
this may be a poster-boy example. Gene

Shinn, E.A., Reich, C.D., Hickey, T.D., and Lidz, B.H., 2003, 
Staghorn tempestites in the Florida Keys: Coral Reefs, v. 22, p. 

Shinn, E.A., 2004, The mixed value of environmental regulations: Do 
acroporid corals deserve endangered species status? Marine Pollution 
Bulletin, v. 49, p. 531-533.

Shinn, E.A., 2011, Are we loving 'em to death? Marine Pollution 
Bulletin, v. 62, p. 2581-2583.


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 
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