The Beginning of the End for Stony Corals in the Reef Aquarium Hobby.

U.S. Considers Endangered Species Protection for 82 Stony Coral Species.

I’ve included the full NMFS document at the beginning of the article so that you can see the extent of the proposal. This is followed by a discussion about what the proposal may mean for the aquarium industry.

National Marine Fisheries Service Sets Deadline for Public and Expert Input on Petition to List 82 Stony Coral Species Under the Endangered Species Act.

From the Federal Register (Vol. 75, No. 27 / Wednesday, February 10, 2010)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 83 Species of Corals as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

ACTION: 90-day petition finding; request for information.

SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90- day finding on a petition to list 83 species of corals as threatened or endangered under the ESA. We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted for 82 species; we find that the petition fails to present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for Oculina varicosa. Therefore, we initiate status reviews of 82 species of corals to determine if listing under the ESA is warranted. To ensure these status reviews are comprehensive, we solicit scientific and commercial information regarding these coral species.

DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by April 12, 2010.

The 83 species included in the petition are: Acanthastrea brevis, Acanthastrea hemprichii, Acanthastrea ishigakiensis, Acanthastrea regularis, Acropora aculeus, Acropora acuminate, Acropora aspera, Acropora dendrum, Acropora donei, Acropora globiceps, Acropora horrida, Acropora jacquelineae, Acropora listeri, Acropora lokani, Acropora microclados, Acropora palmerae, Acropora paniculata, Acropora pharaonis, Acropora polystoma, Acropora retusa, Acropora rudis, Acropora speciosa, Acropora striata, Acropora tenella, Acropora vaughani, Acropora verweyi, Agaricia lamarcki, Alveopora allingi, Alveopora fenestrate, Alveopora verrilliana, Anacropora puertogalerae, Anacropora spinosa, Astreopora cucullata, Barabattoia laddi, Caulastrea echinulata, Cyphastrea agassizi, Cyphastrea ocellina, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dichocoenia stokesii, Euphyllia cristata, Euphyllia paraancora (ed: sic), Euphyllia paradivisa, Galaxea astreata, Heliopora coerulea, Isopora crateriformis, Isopora cuneata, Leptoseris incrustans, Leptoseris yabei, Millepora foveolata, Millepora tuberosa, Montastraea annularis, Montastraea faveolata, Montastraea franksi, Montipora angulata, Montipora australiensis, Montipora calcarea, Montipora caliculata, Montipora dilatata, Montipora flabellata, Montipora lobulata, Montipora patula, Mycetophyllia ferox, Oculina varicosa, Pachyseris rugosa, Pavona bipartite, Pavona cactus, Pavona decussate, Pavona diffluens, Pavona venosa, Pectinia alcicornis, Physogyra lichtensteini, Pocillopora danae, Pocillopora elegans, Porites horizontalata, Porites napopora, Porites nigrescens, Porites pukoensis, Psammocora stellata, Seriatopora aculeata, Turbinaria mesenterina, Turbinaria peltata, Turbinaria reniformis, and Turbinaria stellula.

Eight of the petitioned species are in the Caribbean and belong to the following families: Agaricidae (1); Faviidae (3); Meandrinidae (2); Mussidae (1); Oculinidae (1).

The petition states that all of these species are classified as vulnerable (76 species), endangered (six species: Acropora rudis, Anacropora spinosa, Montipora dilatata, Montastraea annularis, M. faveolata, Millepora tuberosa), or critically endangered (one species: Porites pukoensis) by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Montipora dilatata and Oculina varicosa are also on our Species of Concern list.

So what does this mean for the aquarium industry?

This petition came about as result of move by the Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson, Arizona, a not for profit conservation organisation.

The move to include these species on the Endangered Species list may well endanger the aquarium usage of stony corals. Amongst the corals listed are a number of common aquarium species, including the currently popular Acanthastrea species along with Euphyllia species, Galaxea, multiple Pavona and Turbinaria species, plus many Acropora species. Although there are corals listed that are undoubtedly endangered there are also other resilient species mentioned that I wouldn’t have expected to see on such a list. It’s worth noting that Caribbean stony corals are already restricted, hence unavailable to the aquarium trade.

To see the position of the Center for Biological Diversity on this issue:

If the petition succeeds it would mean the banning of the collection of the listed species of stony coral from U.S. waters along with a ban on the import of these species into the United States. Obviously this would have an enormous affect on the US aquarium hobby.

There would most likely be a knock on affect to the UK and European market as some of our corals are collected from US waters around the world.

I would expect to see opposition to this petition from exporters,  particularly from non-US waters, on economic grounds i.e. the income that the coral trade brings into the local economy, and from the aquarium trade. So far the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), a US, not for profit organisation promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, has raised concerns about this issue. In Europe the Sustainable Aquarium Industry Association (SAIA) is also looking at this petition.

It’s interesting to note that some coral reef scientists have also raised concerns about how this would affect their work.

Reef scientist John Bruno, of the University of North Carolina, has started to take a close look at the petition, and, finds some of the assertions made in the petition to be questionable.

To see the views of a respected reef scientist go to: Climate

The NMFS, the NOAA, and the Department of Commerce have opened a 90-day finding period seeking to hear “scientific and commercial information” on whether the list of stony coral species should be given protection under the Endangered Species Act. The consultation process closes 12 April 2010.

To see more go to the NOAA website:


Is this the beginning of the end for stony corals in the reef aquarium hobby?

It’s too early to tell how this will turn out but I’ve been predicting this sort of thing happening for a number of years now. As the oceans continue to deteriorate from the effect of climate change and other anthropogenic pressures, the number of Marine Protected Areas and no-take areas will increase in an effort to preserve what’s left; it seems inevitable that this will result in increasing restrictions on collection for the aquarium industry.

Most likely there enough specimens of stony coral in captivity to provide a sustainable captive trade, it’s when it comes to fishes that the hobby will be in real trouble.

Further articles in connection with the Centre for Biological Diversity:

US May Ban 66 Stony Coral Species.

Possible ban on collecting clownfishes.

Center for Biological Diversity Seeks Endangered Species Act Protection for the Dwarf Seahorse.

Tim Hayes

Midland Reefs



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2 Responses to “The Beginning of the End for Stony Corals in the Reef Aquarium Hobby.”

  1. Reef Ramblings » Blog Archive » Possible ban on collecting clownfishes. Says:

    [...] In 2009 the Center petitioned to protect 83 species of stony corals in the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Indo-Pacific. The National Marine Fisheries Service determined that 56 of these corals are likely to go extinct by the end of the century, primarily because of ocean warming, ocean acidification and disease. The Service will decide whether these corals merit protection under the Endangered Species Act in December 2012. See, ‘The Beginning of the End for Stony Corals in the Reef Aquarium Hobby‘ [...]

  2. Reef Ramblings » Blog Archive » US May Ban 66 Stony Coral Species. Says:

    [...] response to a 2009 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list 83 coral species as threatened, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing [...]

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