The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to list 66 coral species in the Pacific and Caribbean oceans as endangered or threatened.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a statement today the proposal is an important sensible step toward preserving the benefits provided by the species.
She says corals provide habitat that support fisheries, generate jobs through recreation and tourism, and protect coastlines.
The agency wants to list 59 species in the Pacific and seven in the Caribbean. It’s scheduled public meetings in 20 places including Hawaii, Guam, Florida and Puerto Rico.
The agency is acting to comply with a federal court order after it was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2009.
MANILA » Philippine officials have filed criminal charges against several people linked to a huge shipment of endangered sea turtles and rare black corals.
The shipment’s seizure last month has raised alarm that the archipelago’s rich marine life is being devastated by the illegal trade.
Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez filed the case Friday at the Justice Department against the owner, consignee, shippers and haulers of the $808,000 cargo. They are facing charges of violating the ban on coral exploitation and exportation and related offenses.
Exequiel Navarro, who is listed in the shipment’s manifest as the consignee, has denied the charges saying he was not aware what was in the cargo.
When might an endangered coral species not really be endangered?
When it’s not even a separate species, apparently.
Zac Forsman of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology recently led an investigation of genetic and structural features of Hawaiian corals within the common genus Montipora. And what they found could have serious implications for scores of rare corals currently being reviewed for enhanced protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Of the 83 corals being considered for endangered-species designation, nine are found in Hawaiian waters.
During their investigation, Forsman and his colleagues found that variances in colony shape, color and growth can cause some coral to be misidentified — a problem since coral species definitions are based on the coral skeleton.
According to UH, the study revealed two previously unknown species complexes in Hawaii, “showing that corals previously thought to be very rare may interbreed with more common species.”
A UH news release quoted Forsman as saying, “The scale of variation that corresponds to the species-level is not well understood in a lot of stony corals; this is a big problem for taxonomy and conservation. We need to determine if these species complexes contain species that are in the early process of forming, or if they just represent variation within a species. Either way, it could change our understanding of coral biodiversity.”
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources proposes that a company that damaged a coral reef while trying build an artificial reef off Maui should be fined $824,373.
The state said it could have sought a $4.9 million fine, or the $1,000 maximum allowed by law for each of the 4,914 corals damaged.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources was to decide on the fine at a hearing this morning.
The fine, if approved, would be nearly double the $436,460 that the state paid American Marine Corp. for the Keawakapu artificial reef project.
According to a department document, American Marine dropped 125 Z-shaped concrete slabs onto Keawakapu Reef on Dec. 2. The damage covered 312 square miles of living reef well outside the area marked for the slabs.
According to the document, American Marine’s barge appeared to drift as much as 300 to 400 feet from its buoy and had to be repositioned at least twice. After 1,452 slabs were sunk, state divers found several landed on coral.
The department stopped the artificial reef improvements and opened an internal administrative investigation.
The state said it is not seeking the maximum penalty because previous cases involving habitats considered high-value ecosystems had fines less than the maximum. The Keawakapu reef is classified a medium-value ecosystem.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday is to take up the issue of coral reef damage at the Keawakapu artificial reef off Maui.
The Division of Aquatic Resources staff is to report on an assessment of the damage that occurred last Dec. 2.
The state initially reported that it appeared about 50 concrete slabs hit the reef.
But federal report says 125 slabs accidentally landed on live coral habitat during a state project to enhance the artificial reef.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the rest of the 1,400 modules weighing 2,800 pounds each landed on sand.
Friday’s meeting is to be held at Maui County’s Department of Planning