Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 28, 2019

Contact: Emily Jeffers, (510) 844-7109,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Habitat for 12 Disappearing Corals

Safeguards Needed Around Florida, Pacific Islands to Prevent Mass Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration seeking to protect critical habitat for 12 threatened coral species in Florida, the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. Corals worldwide are experiencing dramatic declines due to the impacts of climate change, pollution and overfishing.

Roughly 30 percent of all corals have already been lost, and scientists predict that, without help, the rest could be gone by the end of the century.

“We’re running out of time to save the world’s corals,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center. “Coral reefs form the backbone of incredibly rich ecosystems. Every day that we fail to protect them is a day closer to losing them forever.”

In 2014 the National Marine Fisheries Service listed 20 species of corals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with 12 of those species occurring within U.S. waters. The Endangered Species Act requires the Fisheries Service to designate critical habitat for any threatened or endangered species. Today’s action challenges the failure of the Fisheries Service to protect coral habitat as required by law.

Corals face widespread threats including habitat destruction, pollution, overharvest, disease and climate change. Warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification due to greenhouse gas pollution threaten the continued survival of coral reefs.

In recent years the frequency of mass bleaching events and disease outbreaks have increased, and some areas are experiencing sluggish coral growth due to ocean acidification. Some coral scientists warn that unless carbon dioxide pollution is rapidly reduced, coral reefs and reef-dependent marine life are headed for an irreversible decline.

“Species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it,” Jeffers said. “It’s especially vital that we establish these areas for coral, because current measures haven’t slowed their decline.”

Critical habitat protection would prohibit federal actions that would destroy or harm coral critical habitat by modifying harmful projects to ensure the conservation and recovery of an imperiled coral species. Critical habitat designation would have immediate benefits including improved water quality throughout the coastal zone, limits on over-fishing, protections for spawning grounds, reduced impacts from development and dredging, and reduced human pressures on hundreds of thousands of reef-associated species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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