What The ESA Coral Listing Means To Reef Enthusiasts

By  CJ John

Look out, coral enthusiasts! If the NOAA has its way, you won’t be able to buy certain species of coral any longer, possibly as soon as this Winter, 2013!
In an effort to protect a number of coral species, the Center for Biological Diversity sent a petition to the NOAA, whereupon the NOAA published a proposed ESA coral listing rule (77 FR 73219) in the Federal Register in December of 2012.
Of the 83 coral species on the list, the NOAA determined that 12 warranted listing as endangered, 54 as threatened, and that 16 do not warrant listing at all as determined under the ESA (Endangered Species Act). Requests were made to extend the public comment period and as of this writing, this deadline is April 6, 2013. A public hearing was scheduled for March 12. 2013, but final determination by the NOAA will happen in November of 2013.

Know the Facts about Federal Register (77 FR 73219)

Why is this important information to know? This is important because the ESA coral listing rule makes absolutely no distinction between wild coral species that are living in dangerous waters, and the kind grown commercially for enthusiasts and hobbyists. Under the new rule, it would be illegal to sell commercially grown coral. The new rule would state that it is okay to own the coral and to give frags away to others, as in gifting or swapping, but selling coral would be disallowed.

Do You Like Your Acropora, Montipora, and Euphyllia Corals?

Is the NOAA against commercial ventures to buy and sell coral? Probably not, as the intent of this proposed rule is to stop the harvesting activities of wild coral species. This rule really makes absolutely no sense! The real problem of coral species extinction is habitat loss and climate change. The proposed rule does not address those issues whatsoever. Warming of the oceans and harmful fishing practices are the real culprits behind the loss of coral species. Since most of the corals on the list are in the Pacific, this proposal will be of utmost concern in the US, because the US has no jurisdiction in the countries where the proposal would take effect. This means US companies would be without legal recourse or protection.

When the wild versions of coral go extinct due to continued illegal harvesting (it will still happen, in spite of any new rules), and destructive fishing methods, commercial endeavors would be in place to save the day, as it were, but only if they are allowed to continue serving the public (and hence, the world) by growing these species of coral. How is it the NOAA does not see this?

It might have made some kind of sense IF there had been scientific research done to determine the danger these species of coral are in when it comes to trade and import matters. The evidence of such research is inconclusive. Stopping trade and import of these corals will not save the coral. It will only encourage more black market efforts and other nefarious methods of commerce. Allowing the commercial aquaculture of these corals would make black market efforts useless, and therefore non-profitable. Would be coral thieves would be out of business and the wild coral could again flourish (barring environmental damages and climate changes, of course). The needs of aquaculture can be met by commercial endeavors, if only the NOAA would realize this.

If you think you might like to make a well-documented comment directly to the NOAA about the ESA coral listing, you can do so until April 6, 2013, at this web address: