by Calley O’Neill
Some time ago, I wrote about the possibility of twenty corals being added to the endangered species list as threatened. Reefs are in trouble. The combination of climate change and resulting ocean warming and ocean acidification, as well as overfishing, chemical and plastic pollution, bleaching, and coral diseases are taking a serious toll on coral reefs, one of the most biologically diverse and important ecosystems on Earth and critical habitat for fish and ocean life. After two years of research and assessment, the Endangered Species Act announcement increased the number of corals on the list by tenfold. That is great news, despite the fact that only one third of NOAA’s recommended species were approved. Five are from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific or Indian Oceans. A total of 22 corals are now protected including the Elkhorn and Staghorn, which were listed in 2006. Unfortunately, none of the species from Hawai’i were approved.
According to the August 27, 2014 article in the New York Times, this decision is a result of the most extensive rulemaking ever undertaken by NOAA. The article notes that the amount of scientific information analyzed was unprecedented. Extensive public comments were also considered.
When an animal is classified as endangered a whole new realm of protection must take place. Unfortunately, the new regulations do not prevent harvesting or damage from tourism and fishing. That is so unfortunate. There are no prohibitions currently related to individual conduct. No-take zones were put in place for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals, and in fact, it is well known that small well placed no take zones can become reservoirs of species that can bring life back to all the reef areas surrounding them.
Our great thanks to The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group who put forth a petition in 2009 to begin the process. BRAVO! Hats off to all of you everywhere who worked on this ruling.
Now, let’s strengthen it and build on with No-Take zones and a huge awareness campaign.
To learn more, read this article