The Phoenix Flyer

Group files lawsuit to protect coral in FL, Caribbean, and Pacific Ocean

By: - August 21, 2019 12:13 pm

Pillar coral. Mark Peter photo on Wikimedia

An environmental group has filed suit against the Trump administration, saying federal authorities are failing to protect 12 coral species around Florida and islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The corals have been on the federal endangered species list since 2014. In its lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service, the Center for Biological Diversity says federal environmental authorities haven’t designated critical habitat zones to protect the corals, as required by law.

“You can’t save these vanishing corals without protecting their most important habitat,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the group. “It’s time for the Trump administration to stop dragging its feet and give these corals the help they desperately need.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

“Corals worldwide are experiencing dramatic declines due to climate change, pollution and overfishing,” the group said in a written statement. “About 30 percent of corals have already been lost as oceans warm and turn more acidic, and scientists say the rest could be gone by the end of the century.”

The lawsuit says that while the agency delays designating critical habitat, “development activities, water quality impairments, and overfishing continue to expand and impact the corals’ remaining habitat. Critical habitat is necessary to ensure that federally permitted activities do not result in the adverse modification or destruction of the corals’ essential habitat areas.”

The corals at issue include five species of Florida and Caribbean corals and seven species of Pacific corals:

The five listed species in the Caribbean are Dendrogyra cylindrus (pillar coral), Orbicella annularis (lobed star coral), Orbicella faveolata (mountainous star coral), Orbicella franksi (boulder star coral) and Mycetophyllia ferox (rough cactus coral)The seven species in the Pacific are Acropora globicepsAcropora jacquelineaeAcropora retusaAcropora speciosaEuphyllia paradivisaIsopora crateriformisand Seriatopora aculeate.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.