Bleached, Damaged U.S. Corals Qualify as Threatened

The US government is proposing to list two types of corals as endangered species, the first such listing for any coral species

The listing would cover staghorn coral and elkhorn coral, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Yesterday, NOAA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere Timothy Keeney announced the agency’s proposal to list the corals as threatened during the 13th biannual meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force held in Washington. Keeney is co-chair of the task force.

`These formerly abundant corals have remained at low levels without noticeable recovery, and in cases … they continue to decline,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher.

Lautenbacher said threats to the corals include physical damage from human activities and hurricanes, as well as disease and bleaching from rising ocean temperatures.

Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries, said agency scientists are conducting research to understand causes of disease and damage to these corals.

The agency proposed the endangered listing in a Federal Register notice, responding to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

These corals are found in shallow water on reefs throughout the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean. They grow best in clear water free from excess nutrients, runoff or algal blooms.