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HomeNewsArchivesNew Fed Rule Gives More Protection to Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals

New Fed Rule Gives More Protection to Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals

Oct. 30, 2008 — Already on the federal threatened species list, elkhorn and staghorn corals will get more protection Nov. 21 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts a new rule into effect.
The rule will prohibit the importing, exporting and taking of elkhorn and staghorn corals. Additionally, the rule prohibits the collection or any activities that result in the corals' mortality or injury. Anchoring, grounding a vessel or dragging gear on the species is prohibited. Additionally, damaging the species' habitat and discharging any pollutant or contaminant that harms the species violates NOAA's new rule.
The rule applies to elkhorn and staghorn coral in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida.
"I think the protection and attention given to these key reef-building species is very positive," said Jeff Miller, the St. John- based fisheries biologist for the National Park Service's inventory and monitoring program.
While moorings are sprinkled around the territory, many people drop their anchors without knowing what's below their boats, Miller said.
Elkhorn and staghorn corals are fast-growing species, so the new protections may help improve the health of the territory's reefs.
Within V.I. National Park on St. John, the elkhorn coral is the greatest concern because it grows in shallow water, said Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of resource management.
While boaters pose dangers with carelessly dropped anchors, snorkelers also cause damage, Boulon said. Standing on reefs is harmful.
The moorings scattered around the park are a big help, Boulon said. Additionally, in some locations buoys mark spots where elkhorn corals grow.
These corals provide the branching framework for reef creatures in search of a safe place to live, eat, and grow, according to a new release from NOAA. The preservation and recovery of these threatened corals is essential to the conservation of an entire ecosystem.
"These corals were once the major reef builders in Florida and the Caribbean, but now more than 90 percent of their populations are lost," said Roy Crabtree, NOAA's Fisheries Service's southeast regional administrator. "That not only threatens their survival — it affects the entire ecosystem. This rule will strengthen our efforts to recover these corals by allowing us to address the human-induced threats affecting their status."
Both elkhorn and staghorn corals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in May 2006.
Species listed as endangered are covered by a suite of protective measures and prohibitions in the law. However, for species listed as threatened, such as elkhorn and staghorn corals, these same measures and prohibitions do not automatically apply.
The new rule will not prohibit scientific research and enhancement activities or restoration activities carried out or permitted by authorized agencies.
"We received a lot of input from our partners and constituents during the development of this rule," said Jennifer Moore, a biologist for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "That information helped shape a rule that will provide benefits and protections to maintain these corals for future generations."
NOAA's Fisheries Service also received 30 written comments during a 60-day comment period for the proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 14, 2007.
In a related step toward conserving elkhorn and staghorn corals, NOAA's Fisheries Service is finalizing the package that designates critical habitat for the species. A separate rule is expected to be issued that will require federal agencies to scrutinize whether their activities will destroy or adversely modify areas designated as critical habitat for threatened corals.
No one from the Planning and Natural Resources Department returned a call requesting comment.
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Oct. 30, 2008 -- Already on the federal threatened species list, elkhorn and staghorn corals will get more protection Nov. 21 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts a new rule into effect.
The rule will prohibit the importing, exporting and taking of elkhorn and staghorn corals. Additionally, the rule prohibits the collection or any activities that result in the corals' mortality or injury. Anchoring, grounding a vessel or dragging gear on the species is prohibited. Additionally, damaging the species' habitat and discharging any pollutant or contaminant that harms the species violates NOAA's new rule.
The rule applies to elkhorn and staghorn coral in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida.
"I think the protection and attention given to these key reef-building species is very positive," said Jeff Miller, the St. John- based fisheries biologist for the National Park Service's inventory and monitoring program.
While moorings are sprinkled around the territory, many people drop their anchors without knowing what's below their boats, Miller said.
Elkhorn and staghorn corals are fast-growing species, so the new protections may help improve the health of the territory's reefs.
Within V.I. National Park on St. John, the elkhorn coral is the greatest concern because it grows in shallow water, said Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of resource management.
While boaters pose dangers with carelessly dropped anchors, snorkelers also cause damage, Boulon said. Standing on reefs is harmful.
The moorings scattered around the park are a big help, Boulon said. Additionally, in some locations buoys mark spots where elkhorn corals grow.
These corals provide the branching framework for reef creatures in search of a safe place to live, eat, and grow, according to a new release from NOAA. The preservation and recovery of these threatened corals is essential to the conservation of an entire ecosystem.
"These corals were once the major reef builders in Florida and the Caribbean, but now more than 90 percent of their populations are lost," said Roy Crabtree, NOAA's Fisheries Service's southeast regional administrator. "That not only threatens their survival -- it affects the entire ecosystem. This rule will strengthen our efforts to recover these corals by allowing us to address the human-induced threats affecting their status."
Both elkhorn and staghorn corals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in May 2006.
Species listed as endangered are covered by a suite of protective measures and prohibitions in the law. However, for species listed as threatened, such as elkhorn and staghorn corals, these same measures and prohibitions do not automatically apply.
The new rule will not prohibit scientific research and enhancement activities or restoration activities carried out or permitted by authorized agencies.
"We received a lot of input from our partners and constituents during the development of this rule," said Jennifer Moore, a biologist for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "That information helped shape a rule that will provide benefits and protections to maintain these corals for future generations."
NOAA's Fisheries Service also received 30 written comments during a 60-day comment period for the proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 14, 2007.
In a related step toward conserving elkhorn and staghorn corals, NOAA's Fisheries Service is finalizing the package that designates critical habitat for the species. A separate rule is expected to be issued that will require federal agencies to scrutinize whether their activities will destroy or adversely modify areas designated as critical habitat for threatened corals.
No one from the Planning and Natural Resources Department returned a call requesting comment.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.