Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2018

Contact: Abel Valdivia, (919) 932-0199,  

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Hawaii's Cauliflower Coral

Climate Change, Ocean Warming Threaten Coral Reefs, Marine Biodiversity

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the cauliflower coral, a bushy species in the Hawaiian Islands that has been devastated by climate change and ocean warming.

These shallow-water corals — which are typically green, pink or cream-colored — have declined significantly, including a 36 percent drop in coverage across Hawaii from 1999 to 2012.

“Cauliflower corals are really sensitive, so they’re among the first to bleach and die when our oceans warm,” said Abel Valdivia, a marine scientist at the Center who filed the petition. “Time is running out to save these corals and coral species around the globe. If we don’t act quickly, 90 percent could be completely wiped out by 2050.”

Protecting corals ultimately requires reducing global temperature increases by drastically cutting fossil fuel emissions. The cauliflower coral is also locally threatened by land-based pollution, sedimentation, and physical disturbance as a result of human activities.

The cauliflower coral has been particularly vulnerable to bleaching episodes on coral reefs worldwide. Between 2014 and 2017, a massive coral bleaching event swept across the planet killing millions of corals on hundreds of reefs from Hawaii to the Great Barrier Reefs. Scientists say it was likely the most widespread, harmful and longest mass coral bleaching ever.

Endangered Species Act protection for the cauliflower coral will minimize key threats, including land-based pollution and runoff from islands in Hawaii. The Act has a 99 percent success rate in preventing extinction for species under its care. In 2006 a petition filed by the Center resulted in the protection of elkhorn and staghorn corals, which became the first species ever to be protected under the Act because of the threat of global warming.

“Coral reefs are remarkable engines of biodiversity, home to 25 percent of all marine species,” Valdivia said. “If we don’t get serious about drastically cutting carbon emissions, these corals won’t stand a chance.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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