10/16/13 1:24 PMProtecting the Caribbean Coral Reefs Is the Fed's Affair - Kansas City infoZinePage 2 of 6http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/57269/
other marine species. Parrotfish protect these corals by grazing on algae that otherwise would smother the reef; removing the fish allows the algaeto dominate reef systems and deny corals the space needed to grow.Elkhorn (above) and staghorn coral, essential habitat forfish and other marine species, have declined by as muchas 98–99 percent since the 1970s. Photo Courtesy of August RodeIn his decision, Senior Judge Salvador E. Casellas ruled that the Fisheries Service’s monitoring plan was invalid because, as a baseline matter, theagency didn’t even know how many parrotfish were present to begin with and in any event had not committed to monitoring the impacts of thefishery on the parrotfish themselves. Under these circumstances, the court concluded the Service had illegally failed to establish an adequateprocedure for verifying whether its fishing plan was preventing excessive harm to the threatened elkhorn and staghorn corals.Parrotfish eat algae that can otherwise smother coral habitat. U.S. Caribbean reefs already suffer from excessive algae cover, a situation exacerbatedby scooping out the grazing fish necessary to hold back algal growth. This situation leads to what scientists call a “death spiral” in which theremoval of algae-eaters like parrotfish leads to increased algae and decreased coral, which in turn results in fewer fish and other reef creatures.Not so long ago, elkhorn and staghorn corals were the main reef-building coral species in the Caribbean. Yet these species have declined by asmuch as 98–99 percent since the 1970s thanks to stressors including overfishing, disease, and climate change. As the corals decline, so does qualityhabitat for fish and other creatures.Tools:Print Email Link Comments
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