Center for Biological Diversity Prepares Suit to Protect Caribbean Coral Species

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release last Tuesday detailing a notice of intent they had filed. The document detailed their intent to sue the federal government, alleging that they had failed to protect 20 different types of coral inhabiting both the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific.

Five of the at-risk corals come from the Caribbean, while the other 15 inhabit the Indo-Pacific. The Center explains in their press release that the corals each received a listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2014 but was never allotted the protective regulations that the Endangered Species Act requires, which include prohibitions on the collecting and selling of the corals.

The notice of intent was delivered to the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS). The Center also said they petitioned the NMFS in 2020 to issue rules that would prohibit activities that harmed the listed coral, ban their import, and attempt to address climate change as well as local threats. Despite this petition, the government determined in 2021 that those protections would be unnecessary.

Recently, corals across the globe have been declining in numbers due to climate change and threats from collection for trade in the international aquarium industry, according to the Center. The press release estimates that 50% of coral reefs have been lost to climate change, and that “about one-third of reef-building coral species are at risk of extinction.”

An attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, Emily Jeffers, said of the situation, “prohibiting collection and import of threatened corals is the bare minimum that federal officials should be doing to protect these amazing creatures. Ocean warming and trade are existential threats to these corals. If we want to prevent corals from going extinct, we need to give them the strongest protections available.”