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For Immediate Release, January 23, 2013

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

Lawsuit Filed to Force Plan to Save Florida's Threatened Corals

TAMPA, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service today for failing to develop a recovery plan for elkhorn and staghorn corals. The Fisheries Service protected these corals under the Endangered Species Act in 2006, but in the six years since has failed to develop a recovery plan, a scientifically necessary, legally required blueprint for recovering endangered species.

Elkhorn coral
Elkhorn coral photo courtesy NOAA. Photos are available for media use.

“Elkhorn and staghorn corals used to be all over Florida’s reefs, and now they’re in danger of going extinct. They desperately need a recovery plan and quick action to reduce carbon dioxide pollution,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney at the Center.

The Center authored a scientific petition in 2004 to list the two corals under the Endangered Species Act due to impacts of global warming and ocean acidification. Reefs in Florida and the Caribbean were once dominated by these beautiful, branching elkhorn and staghorn corals, but now the species face steep declines due to bleaching from increasing ocean temperatures, pressures from disease, fishing and pollution, and impacts from ocean acidification.

“Time is short for saving coral reefs. If we want a future with beautiful coral reefs, healthy fisheries and thriving marine life, we have to act now,” said Lopez.

The Fisheries Service is required by federal law to develop and implement a recovery plan for the corals, needed to identify actions necessary to save the corals from extinction — such as habitat restoration and protection — and enable their removal from the Act’s protection once they’ve met recovery goals. Species with dedicated recovery plans are significantly more likely to be improving than species without. A 2012 study concluded that the Act has been successful in recovering listed species; 90 percent of sampled species have achieved recovery rates that coincide with the goals specified by their recovery plans.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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