[Coral-List] 82 corals being considered for Endangered Species Act protection--what would protection mean?

Shaye Wolf swolf at biologicaldiversity.org
Fri Jun 29 14:41:09 EDT 2012

We have been following the discussions about the 82 coral species that are
being considered for protection under the US Endangered Species Act. Based
on the questions that have been raised, we posted a factsheet on what
Endangered Species Act protection would mean for these corals. This sheet
addresses questions on why the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned
NMFS to protect 83 corals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), how we
chose these 83 corals, the protections that the ESA can provide to listed
corals, how the ESA helps endangered species including threatened elkhorn
and staghorn corals in the Caribbean, how ESA protection would affect
research activities, and how you can comment on the NMFS Status Review for
the 82 candidate corals.


The factsheet, the Center's petition, and other information on our coral
conservation efforts are here:




We provided a summary of the main points of the factsheet below, but please
see the factsheet for more information. 


Thanks for your interest in this topic! Many of you have important
information on the status and threats to the 82 candidate corals. Submitting
this information to NMFS during the current comment period would be helpful
to the status review team and this process.


Shaye Wolf, Ph.D.

Climate Science Director

Center for Biological Diversity

swolf at biologicaldiversity.org


Miyoko Sakashita

Oceans Program Director

Center for Biological Diversity

miyiko at biologicaldiversity.org



Why did the Center for Biological Diversity petition NMFS to protect 83
corals under the Endangered Species Act, and how did the Center select these


Corals face severe, ongoing threats ranging from habitat destruction,
pollution, overharvest, and disease-and now ever-increasing ocean warming
and ocean acidification. Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection provides a
set of strong conservation tools that complement and add to existing
management tools for corals, which will help corals better survive and
recover. That is why, in 2009, the Center submitted a 198-page scientific
petition to NMFS requesting ESA protection for 83 corals. We chose corals
that occur in US waters (and thus can benefit most from ESA protection),
with estimated population declines of 30% or greater over 30 years according
to the IUCN.


What benefits can ESA protection provide to these corals?


ESA protection would make it unlawful for US citizens to harm or kill listed
corals. It would lead to the protection of critical habitat areas for corals
in US waters. It would also require science-based recovery plans for the
corals with specific management and research actions aimed to help them
survive and recover. 


Perhaps most significantly, US government agencies would need to consult
with federal biologists to ensure that their actions do not harm listed
corals. Through this consultation process, federal permits for activities
that could harm corals and their habitat--such as water pollution, dredging,
commercial fishing, and coastal construction--must analyze their impacts on
corals and take steps to reduce or eliminate them, thereby minimizing
stressors on coral reefs. The consultation process would also apply to
federal actions that harm corals through significant greenhouse gas
emissions that increase global warming. This could result in emissions
reductions that help protect corals. Finally, the listing process promotes
greater awareness about threats to corals, and provides public outreach


Has ESA protection benefitted listed species?


The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99% of species that have been listed
to date. One study estimated that 227 listed plants and animals would have
disappeared by 2006 if not for the ESA's protections. A recent analysis
concluded that the ESA has been very successful in recovering listed
species; 90 percent of sampled species are recovering at the rate specified
by their recovery plans


Has ESA protection helped listed elkhorn and staghorn corals in the


Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals, which were
listed as "threatened" in 2006, have received a number of important ESA
protections. These include the designation of almost 3,000 square miles of
protected critical habitat in US waters. US federal agencies have been
required to modify a wide range of projects to reduce harms to these corals,
including mitigation to harbor construction projects, the laying of undersea
cable, and fisheries management plans. ESA protection also allows citizens
to challenge government actions that are harming corals. For example, the
Center is challenging NMFS's authorization of targeted parrotfish fishing
that threatens the health of these listed corals. 


How would ESA protection affect research activities?


ESA listing typically directs more research attention and funding to listed
species. The number of published studies on a species often increases
significantly following a petition and/or listing. In the case of the
82-petitioned corals, the listing petition spurred the development of NMFS's
581-page Status Review, one of the most comprehensive scientific reviews on
corals to date. The listing process has also led to new studies to fill
knowledge gaps on candidate corals. Although researchers will need to apply
for an additional permit for work on listed corals, NMFS grants permits for
a wide range of research and restoration activities on listed species. 


What did the NMFS Status Review determine?


The NMFS status review team determined that 56 of the 82 candidate coral
species are "likely" or "more likely than not" to fall below a critical risk
threshold for extinction by 2100


How can you comment on the Status Review?


NMFS is soliciting information from scientists, government agencies, and
other interested parties on the status and threats to these corals
throughout their range. Submit comments by July 31, 2012 to
<mailto:NMFS.82Corals at noaa.gov> NMFS.82Corals at noaa.gov


The NMFS status review report and supporting information are here:



The Center's petition, factsheet, and other information on our coral
conservation efforts are here:




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