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Saipan Opposes Listing of 66 Coral Species Under Endangered Species Act

Island nation cites adverse effects to economy, inability to maintain and improve shipping channels.

March 19, 2013

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Pillar Coral

Pillar Coral. Photo courtesy NOAA
The proposed listing of 66 coral species under the Endangered Species Act has met opposition by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. NOAA proposed listing the 66 species of corals in December 2012. The listing was in part due to a scientific petition launched by the Center for Biological Diversity, which initially sought federal protections for 83 species of corals. Chamber president Alex Sablan told Marianas Variety that the chamber has concerns with the science that was used to support the proposed listing of corals, science that uses predictive climate models 50 plus years into the future.

“We feel that the practical implementation of the ESA at the local level would be next to impossible and would need an individual with very specific coral identification skills to identify the species of these and other corals,” Sablan told the paper. He said there may be just one person on Saipan who could identify coral species and that there are no laboratories on the island that could be used to analyze corals to determine if they are damaged in any way.


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Sablan also sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service's Pacific Islands regional office in Honolulu citing the chamber's opposition to the listing of these corals as endangered species, claiming that the listing would harm the island's economy which is dependent on tourism. Sablan also said that the most critical threats facing Saipan's coral reefs are due to climate change, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, and that the chamber thinks these issues should be addressed rather than giving blanket protections to corals. Sablan said if the corals are listed as endangered species, Saipan's capability to maintain and improve shipping channels on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota would be adversely affected and would create an "unnecessary additional financial burden on infrastructure projects."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed that 66 species of coral be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Seven species would be listed as endangered and 52 listed as threatened in the Pacific Ocean, while five species of coral would be listed as endangered and two listed as threatened in the Caribbean. NOAA has extended the public comment period up to April 6, 2013.

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