Lawsuit Seeks Protections for 82 Corals Facing Extinction

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 436-9682 x 308, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Seeks Protections for 82 Corals Facing Extinction

Global Warming, Ocean Acidification Remain Top Threats

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of its
intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for the agency’s failure to
protect 82 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 numerous dangers,
but global warming and ocean acidification are the overarching threats to their
survival.

In 2009, the
Center petitioned to protect 83 corals under the Act; the government found that
listing might be warranted for all except one species. However, the government
has failed to meet its deadline to determine whether listing is warranted and
propose rules to protect these beleaguered corals. Today’s 60-day notice is a
prerequisite to filing suit.

“Time is of
the essence to protect coral reefs, the world’s most endangered ecosystems,”
said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “Within a few decades,
global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely unravel
magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to
build.”

Scientists
warn that by mid-century, coral reefs are likely to be the first worldwide
ecosystem to collapse due to carbon dioxide pollution, which causes both global
warming and ocean acidification. Warm water temperatures in 2010 marked the
second-most deadly year on record for corals due to bleaching — a process by
which they expel the colorful algae needed for their survival. Many corals die
or succumb to disease after bleaching. An additional threat to coral reefs is
ocean acidification, caused by the ocean’s absorption of CO2. Ocean
acidification has already impaired the ability of some corals to grow, and will
soon begin to erode certain coral reefs.

“Halting the
extinction of coral reefs and the marine life that depends upon them is an
enormous undertaking, and the Endangered Species Act has an important role to
play,” said Sakashita. “But without rapid reductions in CO2
pollution, the fate of the world’s reefs will be
sealed.”

In 2006,
elkhorn and staghorn corals, which occur in
Florida and the Caribbean, became the first, and to date the only, corals
protected under the Endangered Species Act. But many other corals are also at
risk of disappearing. Protection under the Act would open the door to greater
opportunities for coral reef conservation, as activities ranging from fishing,
dumping and dredging to offshore oil development — all of which hurt corals —
would be subject to stricter regulation. The Act would require federal agencies
to ensure that their actions do not harm corals, which could result in agencies
approving projects with significant greenhouse gas emissions to consider and
minimize such impacts on vulnerable coral species.

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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