In December 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published (pdf) a proposed rule to list 66 species of reef-building coral as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and to re-classify two species from threatened to endangered. At that time, NMFS stated that climate change posed one of the most significant threats to these species. NMFS has now extended (pdf) the deadline for making a final determination on all 68 species for an additional six months, citing scientific disagreement on the sufficiency, accuracy, and applicability of climate change data, among other things.
In extending the deadline for its determination, NMFS stated that the public comment period for the proposed rule revealed “substantial disagreement” on the sufficiency and accuracy of the data, including disagreement on the “application of available information to predict impacts of global climate change on any particular species, or at any particular location.” Specifically, NMFS cited “varied, and often conflicting,” information on the reliability, certainty, scale, and variability of future modeling and predictions of climate change, and the ability of corals to adapt or acclimatize to ocean warming and acidification.
NMFS is scheduled to close its data collection effort today. A final determination is due in June of 2014.