Fisheries Service gets deadline for recovery plan under court settlement
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Two key coral species around Florida need even more TLC than previously thought, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which wants to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals from “threatened” to the even more serious category of “endangered” because of their rapid decline.
The agency also agree to speed up finalization of a recovery plan under a court settlement that sets a 2014 deadline. These corals were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2006 because of threats from global warming and ocean acidification but, before today’s settlement agreement, had still not received the legally required recovery plan needed to save them from extinction.
Meanwhile, the agency has proposed to reclassify the corals from “threatened” to the even more serious category of “endangered” because of their rapid decline.
“A recovery plan and quick action to reduce carbon dioxide pollution are the two missing pieces necessary to save these beautiful corals from extinction,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Elkhorn and staghorn corals have declined by 90 percent since the 1970s. The Center for Biological Diversity authored a scientific petition in 2004 to protect the two corals under the Endangered Species Act due to impacts of global warming and ocean acidification.
Reefs in Florida and the Caribbean were once dominated by these beautiful, branching elkhorn and staghorn corals, but now the species face steep declines due to bleaching from increasing ocean temperatures, pressures from disease, fishing and pollution, and impacts from ocean acidification.
“Healthy coral reefs support Florida’s fisheries and thriving marine life, so a plan to recover them is a good thing for Florida,” said Lopez.
The Fisheries Service is required by federal law to develop and implement a recovery plan for the corals, needed to identify actions necessary to save the corals from extinction — such as habitat restoration and protection — and enable their removal from the Act’s protection once they’ve met recovery goals. Species with dedicated recovery plans are significantly more likely to be improving than species without. A 2012 study concluded that the Act has been successful in recovering listed species; 90 percent of sampled species have achieved recovery rates that coincide with the goals specified by their recovery plans.
Filed under: Environment, global warming, biodiversity, endangered species, climate and weather, coral reefs Tagged: | Environment, global warming, endangered species act, ocean acidification, Caribbean, coral reefs, oceans, national marine fisheries service