SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico ( Associated Press) — An environmental group filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the United States government of failing to protect 12 endangered coral species throughout the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean, which have been decimated by warming waters, pollution and overfishing.
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said it filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service more than two years after the proposed drive to more than 6,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers) of coral habitat, but never did.
The critical habitat designation will cover 5,900 square kilometers (15,300 square miles) off the coast of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Florida and the northern Gulf of Mexico. It also includes 600 square kilometers (230 square miles) around the islands of Guam and American Samoa in the Pacific.
Such a design would protect water quality in the coastal zone, limit fishing and dredging fields, according to the environmental group, which said that “in the absence of bold and immediate action” coral reefs around the world could collapse in the next century. .
A spokesman for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.
The Caribbean has five species of coral that are threatened with extinction, including the starry mountain coral, mostly brown with phosphorescent green spots, and the pillar coral, which was designated as vulnerable in December. Another seven endangered species in the Pacific include Acropora jacquelinea, an elongated dish that can grow up to one meter (three feet) long.