For Immediate Release, September 20, 2022

Contact:

Emily Jeffers, (408) 348-6958, ejeffers@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Threatened Coral Species

Protections Against Collection, Trade, Climate Change Crucial to Prevent Extinction

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government for failing to protect 20 coral species in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific. The corals all received Endangered Species Act listings in 2014 but not the protective regulations the law requires, including prohibitions on collection and sale.

Today’s notice letter to the National Marine Fisheries Services comes as corals worldwide are experiencing dramatic declines. They’re threatened by climate change and collection for trade in the international aquarium industry, among other problems.

“Prohibiting collection and import of threatened corals is the bare minimum that federal officials should be doing to protect these amazing creatures,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center. “Ocean warming and trade are existential threats to these corals. If we want to prevent corals from going extinct, we need to give them the strongest protections available.”

In 2020 the Center petitioned the Fisheries Service to issue rules prohibiting activities that kill or harm listed coral, banning import of listed coral, and addressing climate change and local threats. But last year the federal government deemed such protections unnecessary.

An estimated 50% of coral reefs worldwide have already been lost to climate change, and about one-third of reef-building coral species are at risk of extinction. The United States is the world’s largest importer of corals, yet current international restrictions on coral imports offer only minimal protections to Endangered Species Act-listed species.

In 2014 the National Marine Fisheries Service listed 20 species of corals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The five Caribbean corals at issue 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).

Among the 15 Indo-Pacific coral species in today’s notice letter are Acropora globiceps, Acropora jacquelineae and Acropora lokani.

The Endangered Species Act requires the Fisheries Service to issue protective regulations necessary for the conservation of threatened species concurrent with listing. Today’s legal notice informs the Fisheries Service of its failure to issue protective regulations and threatens litigation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

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