• GBD videos on vimeo
  • subscribe : rss feed
  • Entry

    Conservation Group Seeks Listing of 83 Coral Species Under Endangered Species Act

    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 [...]

    83 corals endangered species act

    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 ESA

    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.”

    National Register

    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.

    Identification?

    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.

    Act!

    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.


    Additional Information

    National Register posting:

    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

    [Docket No. 0911231415-0052-01]

    RIN 0648-XT12

    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.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background

    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]

    Related Posts

    1. Study Highlights Coral Identification Woes
    2. Shimek Goes Short Nature in CORAL Article
    3. Rhynchocinetes durbanensis, the cure?
    4. Banggai Cardinalfish given endangered status, yet still commonly available
    5. Crank the Bass: Study Finds Coral Larvae Move Towards Sound
    • Terry

      We knew it was coming this was just sooner than expected.

    • hatfielj

      Well, though this will be difficult for the hobby, it will be good for our natural reefs. Unfortunately, this hobby is very destructive to reefs and not sustainable.
      I hope it passes and I hope it forces hobbyists to work harder at finding more sustainable ways to enjoy reef keeping.

    • jas

      Stopping the collection of corals in this hobby is not going to save the reefs. The destruction that is happening to the reefs is coming from many sources that dwarf the impact of our relatively small hobby. If anything, they should stop the collection of a number of reef fish, such as tangs. We can't breed them here, many of them have very poor survival rates in transit, and studies have shown that their wild collection has a real negative impact on the reef. You'll also notice that many of the coral species listed are very regularly captive propagated, such as those from the genus Acropora, Montiora, and Euphyllia. By listing them on the ESA, our ability propagate and sell them might be severely hindered as well. Such a situation will likely lead to a higher demand for other corals, which may not be so readily available through captive propagation. How is this a good thing?

    • Mike Clifford

      @jas – I think you, like many hobbyists, make the assumption that our “impact on the reef is very small”. I held this opinion too at first, but have know come to realize that this was a self-interested conclusion which I really had no support for, other than a general feeling that our “small” hobby couldn't take that much.

      While I still don't “know” one way or the other, the recent Nat Geo article (Jan '10) on the illegal animal trade also included some info on CITES (which it did not speak favorably of) and the legal animal trade in southeast asia. To quote: “corals for marine aquariums dominate live animal exports, followed by reptiles for the pet trade.” The numbers were what really shocked me, however. There were 8,619,442 live corals exported from SE Asia from 2000-2007. This number made me realize our hobby isn't so small. And with the number of captive-raised Acropora species available, and the ease of propogation, if a ban happens, maybe it isn't such a bad thing. And this is for collection of corals — the effect of fish collection, when cyanide or blast fishing is used, can be even more devastating (see e.g., article in last month's Coral mag in diving in Vietnam, where there is a noticeable lack of almost any fish as the result of cyanide fishing — unfortunately it is still happening). That said I'm not sure yet whether I agree with this bill. Rather, I just want to point out that we, as hobbyists, need to be cautious not to let our own biases and desires get on the way of an objective analysis of the magnitude of the impact of our hobby on wild reefs.

    • Mike Clifford

      And one addendum — I do think that if this were to pass, there would need to be an exception for captive-raised corals, that are already in the U.S. Otherwise, it would create a huge black market. For example, a registry could be set up that allows you to register the corals in your possession at the time a bill goes into effect, so that you could then trade or sell that coral. This might actually have the cool side effect of creating a govt-certified record of lineage.

    • http://www.reef-geeks.com/ Chris

      @Mike Clifford. Im sure the 8.5 million (over 7 years) cites number you quote includes captive/cultured corals coming from farms. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing how many are wild or cultured from that count.

      If this were to pass hobbyist and vendors would need a Federal permit to posses or propagate any coral that made the list and even if you got the permit you wouldnt be able to cross state lines with it. So no more shipping that coral(s).

      So now what happens to the villagers that make a living at small coral farms all through the region? In some of these places the only way they can feed their family’s is collecting and working at these farms. It’s in their best interests to keep the reefs healthy and to practice sustainability. Take that away from them and the corals are of little value to them, they start blast fishing again to feed their family’s and they start ripping the reefs apart again to build their homes.

      Now lets say a few of these corals get on the list. Who’s charged with IDing the different species and saying this acro is legal and this one isnt? Do you think the average F&W inspector can tell the difference between Acropora globiceps and Acropora lokani? So what do they do get a Marine biologist to inspect every shipment, trust the importers/exporters, or do they say they have no way of telling and stop all acros from coming in?

      There are many different things that could happen with this. In this post Mike lays out all the possibilities pretty well http://www.reef-geeks.com/forums/enviro-geeks/1409-noaa-review-status-82-species-coral-2.html#post32259

    • jas

      I have my doubts that if this passes there will be much allotment for what we do as hobbiests for captive propagation. For one thing, how on earth would they enforce a licensing for the sale of these corals interstate and what expense would they be willing to take to do so? For another, I don't think there is going to be much consideration for us hobbiests at all. I'm not aware of too many special interest groups out there throwing around money for us. I don't think they consider us a major voting group. Even if they do provide for some sort of exceptions, chances are that they will be limited to businesses with the money and means to obtain the licenses. Thus, we still have a situation where the demand for corals is more easily/economically met by species outside of this list than by captive propagated specimens grown by hobbiests. Sure, there may still be people trading in these corals outside of the bounds of the law, but our efforts to increase captive propagation over wild collection will be greatly stymied.

      I agree that it would be a better situation if we were only buying these corals that have been captively propagated. Many of the species on this list are already abundantly available as captive-grown specimens. In reality, we don't have much excuse for not sticking to captive-grown only specimens for some of these corals. However, I do not think that adding them to the Endangered Species list will achieve this end.

    • http://glassbox-design.com/ eric michael

      One point Mike makes in that link that many people forget is each species is considered independently. This is not an all or nothing approaching. One could be listed under the ESA, 50 could, or even none.

      Also the CBD is not petitioning this in an effort against the aquarium industry. They are a respected conservation group that got A. cervicornis and A. palmata placed under ESA protection.

    • jmaneyapanda

      Something for folks to consider- inclusion on the ESA will significantly effect domestic commerce. Currently, species maintained under CITES appendicies are regulated by USFWS for international transactions. However, USFWS does not regulate domestic commerce. Inclusion on the ESA would likely require a permitting process for possession of these species, and would make interstate commerce, or other domestic commerce a very spicy meatball.

    • jmaneyapanda

      Captive propogated or not. If under the ESA, the species is protected, not the source.

    • http://Aquadaily.com Aquadaily

      @Jas and others — when I first started keeping reef animals in the 1980s, it was easy to believe that the hobby had little impact, at least beyond the cyanide issue that was the main hot potato in those days. Collectors still spoke of fields of anemones two minutes from their holding stations etc.

      Even in the mid-90s when the explosion in Berlin / live rock systems occurred, it was still a niche hobby.

      Those days are gone, however. With the increasing affluence of the Far East, marine aquarium keeping has spread to millions, and I don’t think the reefs can take it — particularly not in the case of animals like rare LPS, which we should really be figuring out how to get to spawn and settle in captivity.

      That’s the upside — a ban, or at least severe limits on collection, would encourage more research.

      Anyway, we can’t have reef keeping as is with a Chinese and Indian hobby.

      And that’s certainly not to decry those SE nations wanting a reef tank — the US, and to a lesser extent Europe, has gobbled up what was ‘their’ resource for three decades, after all.

    • http://Aquadaily.com Aquadaily

      @Jas and others — when I first started keeping reef animals in the 1980s, it was easy to believe that the hobby had little impact, at least beyond the cyanide issue that was the main hot potato in those days. Collectors still spoke of fields of anemones two minutes from their holding stations etc.

      Even in the mid-90s when the explosion in Berlin / live rock systems occurred, it was still a niche hobby.

      Those days are gone, however. With the increasing affluence of the Far East, marine aquarium keeping has spread to millions, and I don't think the reefs can take it — particularly not in the case of animals like rare LPS, which we should really be figuring out how to get to spawn and settle in captivity.

      That's the upside — a ban, or at least severe limits on collection, would encourage more research.

      Anyway, we can't have reef keeping as is with a Chinese and Indian hobby.

      And that's certainly not to decry those SE nations wanting a reef tank — the US, and to a lesser extent Europe, has gobbled up what was 'their' resource for three decades, after all.

    • Pingback: Shimek Goes Short Nature in CORAL Article | glassbox-design.com