Way back in October 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sent out a petition asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to list 82 coral species found in the waters of US territories worldwide as threatened or endangered. According to the CBD, each of the species face a variety of serious threats that include bleaching, disease, pollution, hurricanes, ocean acidification, and global warming. These threats have caused a massive decline in these particular species over the last three decades, with these declines being greater than 30% for all species listed.
The federal government failed to respond to the petition by the deadline, forcing the non-profit environmental group to issue a statement of their intent to sue. Shortly after that notice was issued, the National Marine Fisheries Service launched an investigation to see if those 82 corals needed the requested protection, prompting the CBD to hold off on any legal action. The 90-day report from the National Marine Fisheries Service basically supported every claim made by the CBD, stating that all but one species needed to be listed as endangered. As a follow-up to that investigation, the Marine Fisheries Service promised a full year long study would be conducted to determine the needed protections for each species. Unfortunately, that report never surfaced, prompting the CBD to again issue an intent to sue statement in January of this year.
Following the second threat to sue, the government agencies went back to the table with the Center for Biological Diversity, this time coming to an agreement. The settlement gave the National Marine Fisheries Service until April 15th to complete the 12-month findings for the 82 coral species. Despite that date still being a ways off in the distance, the CBD has followed through with their lawsuit, claiming that it was only done to make the agreement enforceable by the court system. We’re not sure what would happen if the government agencies failed to follow through yet again, especially since the CBD has been so persistent for the past two years. However, if the 12-month finding is completed, a proposed rule will be enacted for each of the species that are actually found to be endangered and requiring federal protection.
So what does all of this mean for coral junkies like us? Well, for starters, it’s a very strong conservationist effort that seems to have good intentions. However, this might impact a number of species that are imported for the aquarium trade. What it also says to me is that this won’t be the only push by a large conservation organization to put a lot of effort and time into law suits to protect corals, at least not the way the ocean and coral reefs are degrading.