[Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Sat Sep 6 17:04:29 EDT 2014

Hi Listers,
As usual, I have been reading but not commenting.  Seems to be lots of 
confusion around the news that NOAA has designated 20 species of corals 
that occur in US waters (including US protectorates, or whatever the 
politically correct word for colony is) waters.

Some are irritated that CBD generated a list of 80 species and that this 
action obliged NOAA to spend time and money doing the mandatory 
assessments required that ultimately led to the list of 30 species 
announced.  Apparently people should not generate work for government 
agencies set up to do that work.

Some are concerned that the species may not be easily identified, or 
perhaps have been mis-identified, and therefore may not even be 
endangered.  Some think that this means that genetic analyses need to be 
done to be sure that these are indeed valid species, correctly identified 
(the assumption here, apparently, is that a genetic analysis is the only 
one that can determine if a species is a species).

Some seem irritated that NOAA has only identified 20 species, because 
surely more are endangered.

Few if any (I don't think I saw any) have reflected on what designation by 
NOAA means for the future well-being of these species.

Everyone who wrote on this topic should read Gene Shinn's comments made 
today.  They were a breath of fresh air.

So far as I understand it, by designating certain corals as threatened, 
NOAA is now obligated to develop management plans for each; plans that 
will help to avoid their eventual loss from US waters.  This might have 
value if the management plans include actions that will attack the factors 
causing the declines in these species.  I don't hold my breath on this, 
because the plans are not yet developed, and the reasons for coral decline 
are many and sometimes not easily remedied with local action.  Still, it 
is possible that some good could come from these designations.

That NOAA, once required to assess some 80 species of coral, identified 20 
that were worthy of listing as endangered is further evidence of the 
perilous state of coral reef systems -- a fact that most readers of 
coral-list will not find surprising.  It is a fact that many of us have 
been stating repeatedly, and in any forum available, for some time now. 
And still the world goes on complacently, unconcerned.  These 20 species, 
correctly identified or not, are just a symbol of the plight of coral 
reefs worldwide.  It is clear that we have not been articulating the 
problem effectively enough to break through the general unconcern.  As 
Gene Shinn remarked, most sport divers do not appear to know the 
difference between a living reef and a dead one, and we need to become 
more effective if we really want the fate of coral reefs recognized.

And while we are about it, let's remember that the coral reefs are just 
one of the canaries in our particular mine.  Just as human activities are 
causing major changes to coral reefs, we are causing major changes to the 
oceans in general, as well as to the Arctic and many terrestrial systems 
as well.  We seem not to notice the pressure we place on the planet's 
ecological systems, caused by way too many of us, using way too much 
stuff,  We seem reluctant to ever curtail our enthusiasm for using stuff. 
We seem capable of devolving into meaningless discussion, much at cross 
purposes, when something like the formal designation of 20 species of 
corals occurs, instead of articulating, clearly, that this is simply 
further evidence of the damage we are doing.  And we do not seem very 
interested in stopping our bad behavior.

Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com

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