Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 21, 2019


Emily Jeffers, (510) 844-7109,

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Habitat for 12 Endangered Coral Species

Safeguards Needed Around Florida, Pacific Islands to Prevent Mass Extinction

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today for failing to protect 12 coral species around Florida and islands in the Pacific Ocean. The corals all received Endangered Species Act protection in 2014, but they did not receive the critical habitat protection the law requires.

Corals worldwide are experiencing dramatic declines due to climate change, pollution and overfishing. About 30 percent of corals have already been lost as oceans warm and turn more acidic, and scientists say the rest could be gone by the end of the century.

“We can’t wait to save our coral reefs. Losing corals means losing some of the world’s richest and most stunning ecosystems,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the Center. “You can’t save these vanishing corals without protecting their most important habitat. It’s time for the Trump administration to stop dragging its feet and give these corals the help they desperately need.”

Endangered species that have critical habitat protection are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it. Critical habitat designation for corals could have immediate benefits, including improved water quality throughout the coastal zone, limits on overfishing, protections for spawning grounds, reduced impacts from development and dredging, and reduced human pressure on hundreds of thousands of reef-associated species.

Today’s lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.In response to a petition by the Center, the agency in 2014 protected 20 corals under the Endangered Species Act, including 12 in U.S. waters. Those coral species, covered by today’s lawsuit, include five species of Florida and Caribbean corals and seven species of Pacific corals.

The five listed species in the Caribbean are Dendrogyra cylindrus (pillar coral), Orbicella annularis (lobed star coral), Orbicella faveolata (mountainous star coral), Orbicella franksi (boulder star coral) and Mycetophyllia ferox (rough cactus coral)The seven species in the Pacific are Acropora globicepsAcropora jacquelineaeAcropora retusaAcropora speciosaEuphyllia paradivisaIsopora crateriformisand Seriatopora aculeate.

Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylinders) with damselfish (Credit: NOAA) Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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