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Hawaii’s cauliflower coral being considered as endangered species


    Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii’s cauliflower coral is under consideration as a threatened or endangered species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, a national non-profit which is petitioning for it to be listed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said this week that it will conduct a 90-day status review of the species, Pocillopora meandrina, for consideration as threatened or endangered throughout its range. A proposal for the listing under the Endangered Species Act is expected by early next year.

“Cauliflower corals are in crisis, so this is great news,” said Maxx Phillips, the center’s Hawaii director in a news release. “We need to take care of our coral reefs to maintain a healthy biodiversity in our oceans. Federal action is urgently need to protect cauliflower coral, called Ko‘a in Hawaiian, and our coral ecosystems that are dying out from ocean warming and climate change.”

The corals are a small, bushy species which are typically colored green, pink or cream. The corals have declined significantly with a 36 percent drop across Hawaii from 1999 to 2012, according to the center.

Besides the impacts of ocean warming globally, the cauliflower coral is threatened locally by land-based pollution, sedimentation and physical disturbance caused by human activities.

An earlier petition filed by the center 12 years ago resulted in the protection of elkhorn and staghorn corals, which became the first species ever to be protected under the act due to the threat of global warming.

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