Suit Will Be Filed to Protect 83 Corals Threatened by Global Warming, Ocean Acidification

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

Suit Will Be Filed to Protect 83 Corals Threatened by Global Warming, Ocean Acidification

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity has formally notified the
National Marine Fisheries Service of its intent to sue the agency for its
failure to respond to a petition
seeking to protect 83 imperiled coral species under the Endangered Species Act.
These corals, all of which occur in U.S. waters ranging from Florida and Hawaii
to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, face a growing threat of
extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the
related threat of ocean acidification. The Endangered Species Act requires
that the National Marine Fisheries Service respond to the petition within 90
days, and this initial finding is delinquent.

“Within a
few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely
destroy magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build,” said
Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Timing is of the essence to reverse the tragic decline of these vitally
important reefs, and we can’t afford any delays in protecting corals under the
Endangered Species Act.”

Scientists
have warned that coral reefs are likely to be the first worldwide ecosystem to
collapse due to global warming; all world’s reefs could be ruined by 2050. When
corals are stressed by warm ocean temperatures, they are vulnerable to
bleaching and death. Mass bleaching events have become much more frequent and
severe as ocean temperatures have risen in recent decades. Scientists predict
that most of the world’s corals will be subjected to mass bleaching events at
deadly frequencies within 20 years on our current emissions path.

Further,
ocean acidification, caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide,
impairs the ability of corals to grow and build their protective skeletons.
Therefore, global warming and ocean acidification are an overriding threat to
coral reefs that have already experienced population declines from threats such
as destructive fishing, agriculture runoff, pollution, abrasion, predation, and
disease.

Leading
coral biologist Charlie Veron warned in a recent scientific paper that at
current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (387 ppm) most of the
world’s coral reefs are committed to an irreversible decline. Other scientists
have warned that CO2 concentrations must be reduced to levels
below 350 ppm to protect corals and avoid runaway climate change.

“The
coral conservation crisis is already so severe that preventing the extinction
of coral reefs and the marine life that depends upon them is an enormous
undertaking. The Endangered Species Act has an important role to play in that
effort,” added Sakashita. “But without rapid CO2
reductions, the fate of the world’s coral reefs will be sealed.”

Protection
under the Endangered Species Act would open the door to greater opportunities
for coral reef conservation, as activities ranging from fishing, dumping,
dredging, and offshore oil development, all of which hurt corals, would be
subject to stricter regulatory scrutiny. Additionally, the Endangered Species
Act would require federal agencies to ensure that that their actions do not
harm the coral species, which could result in agencies approving projects with
significant greenhouse gas emissions to consider and minimize such impacts on
vulnerable corals.

For more
information about the Center’s coral conservation campaign, visit: 
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/coral_conservation/index.html.

 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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