Stony coral cover on many Caribbean reefs has declined by 80 percent over the past three decades (Gardner, et.al, 2003). Southeast Florida reefs, which are a part of the greater Caribbean reef system, are being monitored for diseases, bleaching and other problems associated with human activities. Research stations in the Florida Keys have revealed a 37 percent loss of coral cover since 1996 (Jaap, et al. 2003). Since corals are very slow-growing, this loss represents a serious and significant threat to local coral ecosystems.
In May of 2006 staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals were listed as threatened species under the United States Endangered Species Act. The listing and added protection was warranted as field stations in the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Belize, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands documented that both species had declined by 97 percent (Boulon, et al. 2005). Additionally, pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) was listed as an endangered species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 1985.
There are several species of stony corals listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under federal and state law.In addition, all species of stony corals are protected under Florida Administrative Code Chapter 68-B-42.009, which establishes prohibitions on the taking, destruction, or sale of marine corals and sea fans in state waters.
Boulon, Rafe., Mark Chiappone, Robert Halley, Walt Jaap, Brian Keller, Bill Kruczynski, Margaret Miller, and Caroline Rogers. 2005. Atlantic Acropora Status Review. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 202pp. — Download PDF
Gardner, Toby A., Isabelle M. Cote, Jennifer A. Gill. Allistair Grant, and Andrew R. Watkinson. 2003. Long term region-wide declines in Caribbean Corals. Science 301: 958-960. — Download PDF
Jaap, Walter C., James W. Porter, Jennifer Wheaton, Carl R. Beaver, Keith Hackett, Mattew Lybolt, M.K. Callahan, Jim Kidney, Selena Kupfner, Cecilia Torres, and Kathryn Sutherland. 2003. EPA/NOAA Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Project. Fish & Wildlife Research Institute.