The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced it has designated certain areas along the US coast as a “critical habitat” for five threatened Caribbean coral species.
In a notice posted this week, NMFS said:
“Twenty-eight mostly overlapping specific occupied areas containing physical features essential to the conservation of these coral species are designated as critical habitat.”
These areas contain approximately 16,830 square kilometers (6,500 square miles) of marine habitat, according to NMFS. They include the species’ ranges in Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Navassa Island and the Flower Gardens Banks.
“We have considered economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of designating these areas as critical habitat, and we exclude one area from the designations due to anticipated impacts on national security.”
The corals in question include:
- Caribbean boulder star coral (Orbicella franksi);
- Lobed star coral (O. annularis);
- Mountainous star coral (O. faveolata);
- Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus); and
- Rough cactus coral (Mycetophyllia ferox).
The new rule becomes effective September 8th, 2023.
Check out the full notice here.