Government Agency Proposes Dozens Of Coral Species For Endangered Species Act
December 3, 2012

Government Agency Proposes Dozens Of Coral Species For Endangered Species Act

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new Endangered Species Act listings proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) would cover 66 coral species found in the Pacific and the Caribbean.

NOAA said that in 2009, it received a petition to list 83 species of reef-building corals under the ESA from the Center for Biological Diversity. The organization found that the Center presented substantial information indicating a listing under the ESA may be warranted for 82 of the 83 species proposed.

NOAA convened a Biological Review Team to review the 82 species, and then conducted a public engagement process between April and July 2012 to gather additional scientific information.

Before making a final decision on the proposal, NOAA said it is asking for comments from all interested parties. It said the public has 90 days to provide additional comments, which will be considered for the final decision.

In the Pacific, 59 species have been proposed, seven of which would be listed as endangered and 52 as threatened.

In the Caribbean, five of the species would be listed as endangered, and two would be considered threatened.

"In addition, we are proposing that two Caribbean species–elkhorn and staghorn corals–already listed under the ESA be reclassified from threatened to endangered," NOAA said in a statement.

According to the NOAA, coral reefs provide home and shelter to over 25 percent of fish in the ocean, and up to two million marine species. It says the direct economic and social benefits of coral reefs are real and wide ranging.

One study found that coral reefs provide about $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economy from tourism and recreation activities, and a combined annual net benefit from all goods and services of about $1.1 billion.

"Corals are facing severe threats, and it´s highly likely that these threats will increase over time," NOAA added.

The organization identified 19 threats, including rise in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, disease, ecological effects of fishing, and poor land-use practices.

Three major threats identified by NOAA are all directly or indirectly linked to greenhouse gas emissions and changing climates.

"But, despite the broad global threats to corals, there is evidence that alleviating more local stressors can help improve resiliency for many coral species," NOAA said.