WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service will review the boundaries of critical habitat for the elkhorn and staghorn corals to see if they should be expanded into four areas in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The corals, which can grow to be 12 feet tall, were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, in 2006. The review of the designation of critical habitat was requested by the Palm Beach County Reef Rescue.
Elkhorn coral colonies can spread fast, and are important in building new reef environments for species such as parrotfish, lobster, and snapper, as other reefs experience massive die offs from disease, bleaching, sedimentation and other factors. The staghorn also is fast growing and is important in reef growth and fish habitat.
The requested revisions add more substrate areas suitable for adherence and propagation of these coral species, which colonize in water less than 30 meters deep.
The agency has asked for information on potential economic, national security, and other impacts that may arise from the requested revision of critical habitat, as well as on whether the petitioned area qualifies as critical habitat.
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