Coral reefs are among the most economically valuable ecosystems having the highest biological diversity. (Photo: NOAA)
NOAA proposes ESA listing for 66 coral species
Monday, December 03, 2012, 23:00 (GMT + 9)
In compliance with a federal court ordered deadline, and consistent with existing international protections, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that it is proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings for 66 coral species, including 59 in the Pacific and seven in the Caribbean. This science-based proposal is more limited than the 2009 original petition that led to a settlement agreement and the court order.
Before this proposed listing is finalized in late 2013, there will be a 90-day public comment period during which NOAA will hold 18 public meetings.
Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with this proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means, including avoidance of unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities, and the private sector of promoting compliance with the ESA.
As this process moves forward, NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors.
“Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Jane Lubchenco, PhD, undersecretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
“Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Yet, scientific research indicates that climate change and other activities are putting these corals at risk. This is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future.”
NOAA is proposing seven species as endangered and 52 as threatened in the Pacific, and five as endangered and two as threatened in the Caribbean. In addition, the agency is proposing that two Caribbean species already listed under the Act be reclassified from threatened to endangered.
NOAA is seeking public comment on the proposed listing before making a final listing decision by December 2013.
Corals have measurable economic value for communities around the world. NOAA estimates the annual commercial value of US fisheries from coral reefs to be more than USD 100 million; reef-based recreational fisheries generate an additional USD 100 million annually.
Listing species as endangered does not prohibit activities like fishing or diving, but prohibits the specific “take” of those species, including harming, wounding, killing, or collecting the species. It also prohibits imports, exports, and commercial activities dealing in the species.
NOAA has identified 19 threats to the survival of coral, including rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and coral disease.