NOAA lists 20 coral species Threatened

Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2014 17:04:29 -0400
From: Peter Sale <>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals

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Hi Listers,
As usual, I have been reading but not commenting.  Seems to be lots of
confusion around the news that NOAA has designated 20 species of corals
that occur in US waters (including US protectorates, or whatever the
politically correct word for colony is) waters.

Some are irritated that CBD generated a list of 80 species and that this
action obliged NOAA to spend time and money doing the mandatory
assessments required that ultimately led to the list of 30 species
announced.  Apparently people should not generate work for government
agencies set up to do that work.

Some are concerned that the species may not be easily identified, or
perhaps have been mis-identified, and therefore may not even be
endangered.  Some think that this means that genetic analyses need to be
done to be sure that these are indeed valid species, correctly identified
(the assumption here, apparently, is that a genetic analysis is the only
one that can determine if a species is a species).

Some seem irritated that NOAA has only identified 20 species, because
surely more are endangered.

Few if any (I don’t think I saw any) have reflected on what designation by
NOAA means for the future well-being of these species.

Everyone who wrote on this topic should read Gene Shinn’s comments made
today.  They were a breath of fresh air.

So far as I understand it, by designating certain corals as threatened,
NOAA is now obligated to develop management plans for each; plans that
will help to avoid their eventual loss from US waters.  This might have
value if the management plans include actions that will attack the factors
causing the declines in these species.  I don’t hold my breath on this,
because the plans are not yet developed, and the reasons for coral decline
are many and sometimes not easily remedied with local action.  Still, it
is possible that some good could come from these designations.

That NOAA, once required to assess some 80 species of coral, identified 20
that were worthy of listing as endangered is further evidence of the
perilous state of coral reef systems — a fact that most readers of
coral-list will not find surprising.  It is a fact that many of us have
been stating repeatedly, and in any forum available, for some time now.
And still the world goes on complacently, unconcerned.  These 20 species,
correctly identified or not, are just a symbol of the plight of coral
reefs worldwide.  It is clear that we have not been articulating the
problem effectively enough to break through the general unconcern.  As
Gene Shinn remarked, most sport divers do not appear to know the
difference between a living reef and a dead one, and we need to become
more effective if we really want the fate of coral reefs recognized.

And while we are about it, let’s remember that the coral reefs are just
one of the canaries in our particular mine.  Just as human activities are
causing major changes to coral reefs, we are causing major changes to the
oceans in general, as well as to the Arctic and many terrestrial systems
as well.  We seem not to notice the pressure we place on the planet’s
ecological systems, caused by way too many of us, using way too much
stuff,  We seem reluctant to ever curtail our enthusiasm for using stuff.
We seem capable of devolving into meaningless discussion, much at cross
purposes, when something like the formal designation of 20 species of
corals occurs, instead of articulating, clearly, that this is simply
further evidence of the damage we are doing.  And we do not seem very
interested in stopping our bad behavior.

Peter Sale                 @PeterSale3