We have confirmed the USFWS was incorrectly restricting some wholesalers regarding the 20 species of corals recently listed as threatened as illegal to import. Apparently the local offices in Los Angeles were interpreting things different than the folks back at the National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) who control the listings.
We spoke directly to Paul Mckinn, Assistant Director of External Affairs US fish and Wildlife Service and Walter Osborn who oversees the port of Los Angeles enforcement division. The Good catch blog is also reporting the new update and while today’s back-and-forth news might seem like a scare, this is a very real potential outcome for our beloved corals.
In fact, as the ruling and laws currently stand, come sometime in August of next year this is exactly what coral importers can expect from inspections of their shipments. What troubles us the most is not that a handful of corals will be banned from import, but the myriad of closely related species that may get caught up in the new restrictions.
There’s no practical way to identify a frogspawn coral from a single head of branching Euphylillia paradivisa, nor is it possible to tell apart the skeletons of branching frogspawn and branching hammer coral. Furthermore, even coral experts argue about where Acropora suharsonoi, A. lokani, and A. caroliniana are clearly defined, if at all!
Today’s clerical misunderstanding is just a taste of what’s to come for the aquarium hobby if the current coral ESA ruling stands, not to mention the proposed listing of clownfish under the ESA. Overreacting to the new laws and guidelines is not nearly as worrisome as under-reacting to the real, tangible changes that are coming down the pike. Stay tuned, stay informed and get yourself and your local aquarium club involved any way you can.