WASHINGTON (CN) - The National Marine Fisheries Service has listed the dusky sea snake and three corals, all foreign marine species, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Wednesday listing was prompted by a 2013 petition filed by the WildEarth Guardians environmental group to list 81 marine species as threatened or endangered under the act.
"Our oceans are under extreme and increasing threats from unchecked fishing, capture of animals for the pet trade, pollution and ocean acidification," Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians, said. "It is time we reverse this trend toward extinction and protect our marine ecosystems and the species that call the oceans home."
The NMFS published a proposal to list the four species last October, but received only three comments regarding the corals, and a letter from the Australian Government Department of the Environment simply stating that the dusky sea snake is listed under Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
After a status review, peer review and consideration of the public comments for each species, the agency determined that the dusky sea snake, which is primarily found in the coral reefs of Australia, has a small and declining population, a very restricted range and presumed low rate of dispersal, and has a high rate of hybridization with the olive sea snake.
Of the three corals, one is found in Indonesia, another on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal, and the third has only one known population in the Galapagos Islands. All the corals have small, restricted ranges, low growth rates and lack of genetic diversity. The corals are threatened by development, pollution, illegal activities and climate change.
The agency considered conservation efforts to protect the species and concluded that the efforts are not enough to prevent the extinction risk for any of the species.
"Recognition of the species' plight through listing promotes conservation actions by federal and state agencies, foreign entities, private groups, and individuals. Because the ranges of these four species are entirely outside U.S. jurisdiction, the main effects of these endangered listings are prohibitions on export and import," the agency said.
Half of the total marine species found on earth may be at risk of extinction by 2100 without significant conservation efforts, according the WildEarth Guardians. "Despite this grave situation, the U.S. largely fails to protect marine species under the ESA. Of the more than 2,240 species protected under the ESA, only about five percent are marine species," they said.
No critical habitat was designated for the three species because none occur within U.S. jurisdiction. The listing determinations are effective Nov. 6.
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