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Ocean Coral to receive groundbreaking protection

In an unprecedented action this past week, the federal government through the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration announced a list of protected coral species, according to the Sun Sentinel on Saturday.

Obama Meets With State, Local, And Tribal Leaders Climate Task Force
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

There are twenty corals on the list of which fifteen live in the Pacific Ocean, while five are in the South Florida reefs and the Caribbean Sea. Many coral have suffered from the effects of global warming and are deteriorating. Acidification of the oceans is a major deterioration of coral reef. Other coral reefs are threatened by commercial fishing trawling.

None of the coral reefs off of Hawaii are endangered. The coral reefs in the Pacific are the American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument. In the Atlantic, the affected coral reefs are off of the Florida Keyes, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Many of the coral provide structure for marine life. There are five in South Florida, pillar coral, rough cactus coral, lobed star coral, mountainous star coral and boulder star coral which have been discovered by tourists as they snorkel. The structure of the coral and what it affords marine life is of interest to the ocean enthusiasts and conservationists.

Because the coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, they provide habitat for many marine species, according to Eileen Sobeck, an assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.

The twenty listed species this week came after a two year study. This list has far reaching consequences for federal agencies and their decision making for projects and permit requests. How the species will be affected will now be part of the decision making process by the Army Corps of Engineers. Harbor and coastal development will be reviewed for the variables such as sediment release into the ocean.

Coral are living colonies and consume food and expel waste through the oxygen that the coral create. They also provide homes for tiny algae, called zooxanthellae. This algae is required for photosynthesis. The acidification and warming waters of the oceans are bleaching coral to their death. The dying coral are removed from the normal process to produce the elements that contribute to the marine in the ocean.

According to the NOAA, new drugs are being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, other bacterial and viruses diseases. Coral is found on one-tenth of one percent of the oceans but it accounts for billions in asset value.

Elliott Norse, founder and chief scientist of the Marine Conservation Institute of Seattle was quoted in Yahoo as raising coral to the level of the front line for human discoveries. He states, “I hope this wakes people up and we don’t have to lose more coral.”

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