Protecting the Caribbean Coral Reefs Is the Fed's Affair - Kansas City infoZine

10/16/13 1:24 PM

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Arts » Business Community » Consumer Education Environment Health » U.S. Politics Science/Tech » Sports Travel Videos World Protecting the Caribbean Coral Reefs Is the Fed's Affair Tuesday, October 15, 2013 :: Staff infoZine A federal district court has ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the law by allowing fishing for depleted parrotfish and other algae-eating reef fish species without properly monitoring the fishery’s impacts on rare corals that depend on healthy fish populations.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - The decision came in response to an Endangered Species Act suit filed in January 2012 by Earthjustice on behalf of two conservation groups (CORALations and the Center for Biological Diversity), and Mary Adele Donnelly. Local counsel for Earthjustice on this case was Miguel Sarriera, who has represented a number of groups battling for environmental protection throughout Puerto Rico. The court determined the Fisheries Service must do a better job monitoring the effects of commercial fishing on elkhorn and staghorn coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These coral species are protected by the Endangered Species Act and serve as essential habitat for fish and
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Protecting the Caribbean Coral Reefs Is the Fed's Affair - Kansas City infoZine

10/16/13 1:24 PM

other marine species. Parrotfish protect these corals by grazing on algae that otherwise would smother the reef; removing the fish allows the algae to dominate reef systems and deny corals the space needed to grow.

Elkhorn (above) and staghorn coral, essential habitat for fish and other marine species, have declined by as much as 98–99 percent since the 1970s. Photo Courtesy of August Rode In his decision, Senior Judge Salvador E. Casellas ruled that the Fisheries Service’s monitoring plan was invalid because, as a baseline matter, the agency didn’t even know how many parrotfish were present to begin with and in any event had not committed to monitoring the impacts of the fishery on the parrotfish themselves. Under these circumstances, the court concluded the Service had illegally failed to establish an adequate procedure 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 exacerbated by scooping out the grazing fish necessary to hold back algal growth. This situation leads to what scientists call a “death spiral” in which the removal 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 as much as 98–99 percent since the 1970s thanks to stressors including overfishing, disease, and climate change. As the corals decline, so does quality habitat for fish and other creatures.
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Protecting the Caribbean Coral Reefs Is the Fed's Affair - Kansas City infoZine

10/16/13 1:24 PM

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