[Coral-List] What agency should list corals under the Endangered species act?

Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Tue Mar 26 14:58:26 EDT 2013

*What agency should list corals under the Endangered Species Act?*

Dear Listers,

Because of a petition from the tax exempt Center for Biodiversity, NOAA 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will in all probability list 7 
common Atlantic corals as threatened and upgrade /Acropora/ species to 
endangered.My question is, should the listing be accomplished by an 
agency under the Deparment of Commerce? Is there a conflict of interest? 
Should instead the Department of Interior, e.g., National Park Service 
or Fish and Wildlife, be the official listing agency? Why do I bring 
this up?

My concern is because any agency under the Department of Commerce that 
also supports research is not likely to ban or regulate products, or 
activities, that may negatively affect commerce and/or economics. For 
example: suppose the "gold standard" 96-hr LD-50 bioassay demonstrated 
that the mosquito pesticides Dibrom, Nalid, and Malathion, commonly 
sprayed in the Florida Keys, is detrimental to corals?

That finding would present a problem if not an onerous catch-22 
situation because banning these substances could have a huge negative 
effect on the Florida Keys economy, especially the all-important tourist 
economy.Ironically, after all these years of coral reef research, no one 
has yet performed this straightforward bioassay, even though it is well 
known that these pesticides affect marine life as well mosquitoes and 
butterflies. Note that the Department of Interior does not allow 
spraying of these toxic substances in their parks or on park-owned 
property on Key Largo. Such spraying is also not allowed over the 
State-owned Florida Keys Marine Laboratory on Long Key. The toxic 
effects there are well known to marine scientists. I won't bring up the 
endangered Key Largo Wood Rat that is used to curtail commercial 
activities on State lands on North Key Largo .

But not to worry, if /Acropora/ status is elevated to "endangered," it 
will likely be impossible to conduct those needed bioassays because by 
its very nature the LD-50 test requires the sacrificing of some 
organisms. This bioassay basically determines the level of a substance 
required to kill 50 percent of the organisms in a 96-hr period. That 
badly long-needed information could then be used to determine if such 
levels are present in marine waters off the Florida Keys, including the 
saline groundwater beneath the keys that ultimately upwells offshore. I 
have to wonder why this simple test has never been done? Since these 
tests have not been attempted after all the years of concern about dying 
corals, it seems unlikely the tests will likely happen while it may 
still be legal to conduct them. Catch-22?

On the other hand, if the Department of Interior were to be in charge of 
listing (they already have control of corals under their jurisdiction at 
Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne National Park, and Everglades 
National Park), there would be no conflict. Because of their philosophy, 
the Park Service is generally not constrained by effects on commerce.

One might add that similar LD-50 bioassays should be conducted on 
sunscreens. Sunscreens are banned from use by swimmers in coral reef 
marine parks in Mexico. Do the Mexican authorities know something we do not?

One can only imagine other activities that will be affected once these 
new endangered species acts go into effect. One might also wonder why we 
presently have 3 federal and 1 state agency protecting corals?



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
<eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158
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