A week ago from today, the National Marine Fisheries Services announced ‘a 90 day finding on a petition to list 83 species of corals as threatened or endangered under the ESA (Endangered Species Act)’. Just yesterday CORAL Magazine sent out an e-mailer on this petition and rightfully so. Simply put, it has the potential to [...]
A week ago from today, the National Marine Fisheries Services announced ‘a 90 day finding on a petition to list 83 species of corals as threatened or endangered under the ESA (Endangered Species Act)’. Just yesterday CORAL Magazine sent out an e-mailer on this petition and rightfully so. Simply put, it has the potential to significantly alter the marine aquarium industry.
Some of those listed include popular captive propagated and maricultured species such as Acropora lokani, as well as more common LPS corals such as Euphyllia paraancora and Turbinaria peltata. Should this petition pass into law, it would be illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any of these species. The ESA also makes illegal to ‘take’ any endangered or threatened species in the U.S. or its territories (including territorial seas or upon the high seas).
I’ll be the first to say tighter regulation on marine life collection needs to come. We continue to take and take from the ocean, while rarely, if ever, give back. However, I do not believe placing all these species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act would necessarily achieve what this conservation group is striving for and I disagree with some of their assertions.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973, is one of the most influential and powerful environmental laws passed in modern era of the United States. It is handled by US Fish and Wildlife and the NOAA, with the objective of preventing extinction and maintaining populations of plants and animals.
For a species to be listed on the ESA it can be done directly by USFW or NOAA, or they can be petitioned by individuals or groups. This is exactly what the Center for Biological Diversity has done with 83 coral species. The formal petition was filed on October 20,2009 citing imperiled status and global warming [See the actual petition here (PDF)]. Its chief assertion is that the 83 species listed have seen a 30% decline over that past 30 years–which is based off the study One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts. (Interestingly aquarium pioneer Charles Delbeek participated in this study, we’re curious his thoughts).
Who is the CBD?
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit group that describes themselves as:
“a non-profit, public interest environmental organization dedicated to the protection of native species and their habitats through science, policy, and environmental law. The Center has over 43,000 members throughout the United States and internationally. The Center and its members are concerned with the conservation of endangered species, including coral species, and the effective implementation of the ESA.”
The petition was recently published in the National Register. In it, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) writes they have found ‘substantial scientific or commercial information’ that 82 of the 83 species petitioned may be warranted for ESA protection. (Oculina varicosa was omitted). The said support is certainly up for objection and some scientists are being vocal about it. John Bruno, one of the talented bloggers at Climate Shifts, has laid out a counterpoint article that breaks down some of the information the CBD presents. I’d encourage you to read it, along with the CBD petition.
From the National Register:
“Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a ‘‘species,’’ which is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate species, a distinct population segment which interbreeds when mature (DPS) (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). Because corals are invertebrate species, we are limited to assessing the status of species or subspecies of corals. A species or subspecies is ‘‘endangered’’ if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and ‘‘threatened’’ if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively, 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and (20)).”
We’re curious what would qualify as a subspecies in this legal context and how these animals would be identified under the ESA. Species identification is difficult enough in the scientific sense. Will their be reliance on flawed morphologic evaluation (and by whom…)? A 2009 study entitled Shape Shifting Corals comes to mind. In it, Toonen et al. writes, “Porites provides an excellent example of the ‘species problem’ in corals, where highly variable morphology defies classification into discrete species groups.” In the ESA petition, four species of Porites are listed.
Those in objection, or support, of the petition can submit information and comments (on public record) to NMFS by April 12th. These can be sent electronically via Regulations.gov using the RIN # 0648-XT12. Additionally PIJAC will be accepting information and comments for their testimony. Note that one public hearing is mandatory if it is requested within 45 days after the date of publication of general notice.
- ESA : Title 16 § 1533. Determination of endangered species and threatened species
- General Overview of Petition
- National Register Listing [PDF, begins at lower right of page]
- Center for Biological Diversity’s Original Petition [PDF]
- Toonen, Robert J., Zac H. Forsman, Daniel J. Barshis, and Cynthia L. Hunter. “Shape-shifting corals: Molecular markers show morphology is evolutionarily plastic in Porites.” BMC Evolutionary Biology 9.45 (2009).
National Register posting:
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Parts 223 and 224
[Docket No. 0911231415-0052-01]
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 83 Species of Corals as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.
ACTION: 90-day petition finding; request for information.
SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list 83 species of corals as threatened or endangered under the ESA. We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted for 82 species; we find that the petition fails to present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for Oculina varicosa. Therefore, we initiate status reviews of 82 species of corals to determine if listing under the ESA is warranted. To ensure these status reviews are comprehensive, we solicit scientific and commercial information regarding these coral species.
DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by April 12, 2010.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN), [[Page 6617]] 0648-XT12, by any of the following methods:
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814 (for species occurring in the Pacific Ocean); or Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (for species occurring in the Atlantic Ocean). Facsimile (fax): (907) 586-7012 (for species occurring in the Pacific Ocean); (727) 824-5309 (for species occurring in the Atlantic Ocean).
Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Interested persons may obtain a copy of this coral petition from the above addresses or online from the NMFS HQ website: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lance Smith, NMFS Pacific Islands Region, (808) 944-2258; Jennifer Moore, NMFS Southeast Region, (727) 824-5312; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, (301) 713-1401.
On October 20, 2009, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list 83 species of coral as threatened or endangered under the ESA. The petitioner also requested that critical habitat be designated for these corals concurrent with listing under the ESA. The petition asserts that synergistic threats of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and other impacts affect these species, stating that immediate action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that do not jeopardize these species. The petition also asserts that the species are being affected by dredging, coastal development, coastal point source pollution, agricultural and land use practices, disease, predation, reef fishing, aquarium trade, physical damage from boats and anchors, marine debris, and aquatic invasive species. The petition briefly summarizes the description, taxonomy, natural history, distribution, and status for each petitioned species, and discusses the status of each oceanic basin’s coral reefs. It also describes current and future threats that the petitioners assert are affecting or will affect these species.
The 83 species included in the petition are: Acanthastrea brevis, Acanthastrea hemprichii, Acanthastrea ishigakiensis, Acanthastrea regularis, Acropora aculeus, Acropora acuminate, Acropora aspera, Acropora dendrum, Acropora donei, Acropora globiceps, Acropora horrida, Acropora jacquelineae, Acropora listeri, Acropora lokani, Acropora microclados, Acropora palmerae, Acropora paniculata, Acropora pharaonis, Acropora polystoma, Acropora retusa, Acropora rudis, Acropora speciosa, Acropora striata, Acropora tenella, Acropora vaughani, Acropora verweyi, Agaricia lamarcki, Alveopora allingi, Alveopora fenestrate, Alveopora verrilliana, Anacropora puertogalerae, Anacropora spinosa, Astreopora cucullata, Barabattoia laddi, Caulastrea echinulata, Cyphastrea agassizi, Cyphastrea ocellina, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dichocoenia stokesii, Euphyllia cristata, Euphyllia paraancora, Euphyllia paradivisa, Galaxea astreata, Heliopora coerulea, Isopora crateriformis, Isopora cuneata, Leptoseris incrustans, Leptoseris yabei, Millepora foveolata, Millepora tuberosa, Montastraea annularis, Montastraea faveolata, Montastraea franksi, Montipora angulata, Montipora australiensis, Montipora calcarea, Montipora caliculata, Montipora dilatata, Montipora flabellata, Montipora lobulata, Montipora patula, Mycetophyllia ferox, Oculina varicosa, Pachyseris rugosa, Pavona bipartite, Pavona cactus, Pavona decussate, Pavona diffluens, Pavona venosa, Pectinia alcicornis, Physogyra lichtensteini, Pocillopora danae, Pocillopora elegans, Porites horizontalata, Porites napopora, Porites nigrescens, Porites pukoensis, Psammocora stellata, Seriatopora aculeata, Turbinaria mesenterina, Turbinaria peltata, Turbinaria reniformis, and Turbinaria stellula.
Eight of the petitioned species are in the Caribbean and belong to the following families: Agaricidae (1); Faviidae (3); Meandrinidae (2); Mussidae (1); Oculinidae (1). Seventy-five of the petitioned species are in the Indo-Pacific region, represented by five families (nine species) in Hawaii: Acroporidae (4); Agaricidae (1); Poritidae (1); Faviidae (2); Siderastreidae (1); and 11 families and one order in the rest of the Indo-Pacific region: Acroporidae (31); Agaricidae (7); Poritidae (6); Faviidae (2); Dendrophylliidae (4); Euphyllidae (4); Oculinidae (1); Pectiniidae (1); Mussidae (4); Pocilloporidae (3); Milleporidae (2); Order Helioporacea (1). All 83 species can be found in the United States, its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Navassa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Pacific Remote Island Areas), or its freely associated states (Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau), though many occur more frequently in other countries.
The petition states that all of these species are classified as vulnerable (76 species), endangered (six species: Acropora rudis, Anacropora spinosa, Montipora dilatata, Montastraea annularis, M. faveolata, Millepora tuberosa), or critically endangered (one species: Porites pukoensis) by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Montipora dilatata and Oculina varicosa are also on our Species of Concern list.
[flickr : rling]