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.
In an effort to sustain commercial and recreational fishing for the next several decades, the United States this year will become the first country to impose catch limits for every species it manages, from Alaskan pollock to Caribbean queen conch.
Although the policy has attracted scant attention outside the community of those who fish in America and the officials who regulate them, it marks an important shift in a pursuit that has helped define the country since its founding.
Unlike most recent environmental policy debates, which have divided neatly along party lines, this one is about a policy that was forged under President George W. Bush and finalized with President Obama’s backing.
“It’s something that’s arguably first in the world,” said Eric Schwaab, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the country.”
Five years ago, Bush signed a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which dates to the mid-1970s and governs all fishing in U.S. waters. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers joined environmental groups, some fishing interests and scientists to insert language in the law requiring each fishery to have annual catch limits in place by the end of 2011 to end overfishing.
Although NOAA didn’t meet the law’s Dec. 31 deadline — it has finalized 40 of the 46 fishery management plans that cover all federally managed stocks — officials said they are confident that they will have annual catch limits in place by the time the 2012 fishing year begins for all species. (The timing varies depending on the fish, with some seasons starting May 1 or later.) Some fish, such as mahi-mahi and the prize game fish wahoo in the southeast Atlantic, will have catch limits for the first time.
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
A federal agency has awarded $3.8 million to the East-West Center to help Hawaii and several Pacific island nations cope with the effect of climate changes.
The five-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will help to bring together scientists and decision-makers to help Pacific communities respond to changing climates, East-West spokesman Derek Ferrar said.
The areas included in the Pacific Regional Integrated Science and Assessment program are the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, and American Samoa.