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NOAA Lists 20 New Corals as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act.
Materials and Resources
In total, 22 species of coral are now protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the two corals (elkhorn and staghorn) listed as threatened in 2006. Fifteen of the newly listed species occur in the Indo-Pacific and five in the Caribbean (see table below). None are found in Hawaii.
Protecting and conserving biologically diverse coral reefs is essential. The Endangered Species Act gives us some important tools to conserve and recover those corals most in need of protection. The final decision to list these 20 corals is a result of the most extensive rulemaking ever undertaken by NOAA. The amount of scientific information sought, obtained, and analyzed was unprecedented. This information included general reef-building coral biology, habitat characteristics and threats, as well as species-specific spatial, demographic, and other information for the individual coral species in the final rule.
The final decision is a significant change from the proposed rule in November 2012, which proposed listing 66 species (a mix of threatened and endangered). We changed our determinations for many of the species for two general reasons:
- We received and gathered new general and species specific information.
- Public comments helped us refine the way we apply all the available information to determine vulnerability to extinction of each species considered.
About Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are critical to the health of marine ecosystems and they face severe threats. Coral reefs world-wide have declined significantly—some individual species have declined by at least 90 percent. Healthy coral reefs provide shoreline protection for coastal communities and habitat for a variety of species, including commercially important fish. These benefits are lost when corals are degraded. As part of this rule-making process, NOAA identified a number of threats to coral ecosystems, some of the most serious of which are: impacts related to climate change (rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and disease), ecological effects of fishing, and poor land-use practices.