For Immediate Release,
February 27, 2020
WASHINGTON— The Trump administration agreed today to issue critical habitat protection for 12 threatened coral species: five species found in Florida and the Caribbean and seven around islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued over the issue in August 2019, requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to publish its proposed protections by July 31 of this year.
“Corals reefs are in crisis, so it’s good to see these 12 species finally getting the overdue protection they need,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the Center. “Coral reefs are the world’s most important marine habitats. Protecting the homes of vulnerable species like pillar and cactus corals makes our oceans healthier.”
The corals all received Endangered Species Act protection in 2014 but did not get the critical habitat protection the law requires. Corals worldwide are experiencing dramatic declines due to climate change, pollution and overfishing. About 30% 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.
Endangered and threatened 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 harm from development and dredging, and reduced human pressure on hundreds of thousands of reef-associated species.
Today’s agreement was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.It covers five species of Florida and Caribbean corals: 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). It also coversseven species of Pacific corals:Acropora globiceps, Acropora jacquelineae, Acropora retusa, Acropora speciosa, Euphyllia paradivisa, Isopora crateriformisand Seriatopora aculeate.