Update: 9/16/14 4:15PM CT Waiting on a call back from the Office of External Affairs regarding the validity of it being an honest mistake.
Update 2: USFWS Los Angeles: We are now advising the trade of coming ESA listings
We have just confirmed The United States fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the Port of Los Angeles has their agents informing aquarium import facilities (wholesalers, distributors, etc.) in and around southern California that it is now illegal to import any of the 20 species of coral recently listed under the Endangered species act (ESA) via Ret Talbot who runs the Good Catch Blog.The USFWS is the enforcement arm that will go after those violating the Endangered Species act and overall “police for wildlife”.
This is a very big deal because it doesn’t jive with earlier reports from the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) telling us there would not be an immediate effect of the listings. The 20 species of corals listed include the following:
The species in italics are Caribbean stony coral species which have already enjoyed multiple layers of protection and are not even part of the marine aquarium trade at all. However, those species in bold letters are extremely popular stony corals, most of which are being provided to the aquarium trade almost exclusively from maricultured coral colonies.
Acropora jacquelinae, A. lokani, A. speciosa and A. tenella belong to what is collectively known as “deepwater acros” and their thin branching skeletons could hardly be classified as “reef-building”. Nonetheless, for the time being we can kiss the Red Devil Acro and 20,000 Leagues Lokani goodbye except for those strains which are already being propagated in the marine aquarium hobby.
Of greatest concern is the ban on importing Euphyllia paradivisa, the branching frogspawn coral which is also primarily imported as a maricultured coral. While the threatened coral listing for E. paradivisa seems to cover only the branching form of frogspawn coral, USFS is going to be hard pressed to differentiate between colonies of regular frogspawn, branching hammer coral and other Euphyllia corals which all look very similar when the tissue is retracted, and final decisions on whether to allow a related Euphyllia coral to be imported will ultimately fall on the mood and whim of the Customs agent inspecting the coral shipment.
While it seemed at first that the aquarium community would have at least a year before any changes were made to how corals are imported, this recent move drives home the urgency of coming together to reject the ruling and how it is and will be implemented. We’ll continue to keep our readers abreast of how the listing of 20 coral species on the Endangered Species Act affects our hobby, now and in the future.