Harbor improvements might impact endangered coral species

Hawai’i governor Neil Abercrombie as of February 25th, 2013 has announced the potential release of approximately 50 million dollars for capital improvement projects designated for four different harbors across three islands (http://governor.hawaii.gov/blog/governor-releases-113-million-for-hawaiis-airports-and-harbors-2/). These harbors include Honolulu and Barbers Point harbors on the island of Oahu, Hilo harbor on the island of Hawai’i and Kahului harbor on the island of Maui. These renovations include the potential alteration or demolition of a number of hard substrates (ie piers, docks, harbor walls) which may possess coral growth thereon.

Previous to the governor’s announcement, on December 7th, 2012 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the proposed protection of 66 Reef-building coral species under the Endangered Species Act (http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_coral.html#locations_c). 7 of these species are present in the Caribbean and 59 are present in the Indo Pacific region. However, because 25 of the 59 potential species listed as endangered or threatened in the Indo Pacific region are of the families Acroporidae and Pocilloporidae, a potential hang up in the governors plans may be growing in the harbors as we speak.

As discussed by Roff and Mumby (2012), ‘coral growth is comprised of two categories: pioneering, branching, fast growing (>100 mm/yr) corals of the families Acroporidae and Pocilloporidae and slower growing, massive or plate corals’. Because these pioneering species are capable of inhabiting newly established areas (ie. peirs, buoys, constructed sea walls) often found in harbors, the potential for the presence of one or several of these species in the zones set for construction is substantial. This could cost the state of Hawai’i millions of dollars in potential legal hassle due to damage of species protected by the Endangered Species Act during future construction.

-By Dan DeLago

 

References:

“Global Disparity in the Resilience of Coral Reefs”. G.Roff and P.J. Mumby. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Volume 27. Number 7. 2012

Hawai’i governor’s  February 25th press release for potential capital improvement projects: http://governor.hawaii.gov/blog/governor-releases-113-million-for-hawaiis-airports-and-harbors-2/

NOAA’s proposed 66 reef building corals potentially protected by the Endangered Species Act: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_coral.html#locations_c

 

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