[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 207 (Friday, October 25, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 63941-63946]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-25095]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 130819728-3728-01]
RIN 0648-XC822


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition 
To List 23 Species of Corals as Threatened or Endangered Under the 
Endangered Species Act

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding; request for information.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list 23 
species of corals as threatened or endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA). We find that the petition presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned 
action may be warranted for 3 species: Cantharellus noumeae, 
Siderastrea glynni, and Tubastraea floreana. Therefore, we will conduct 
status reviews of the three species to determine if the petitioned 
actions are warranted. To ensure that the status reviews are 
comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information 
pertaining to these petitioned species from any interested party. We 
find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted for 20 species: Acropora roseni, Acropora suharsonoi, 
Alveopora excelsa, Alveopora minuta, Ctenella chagius, Hydnophora 
bonsai, Isopora togianensis, Lithophyllon ranjithi, Lobophyllia 
serratus, Millepora boschmai, Millepora striata, Montipora setosa, 
Parasimplastrea sheppardi, Pectinia maxima, Pocillopora

[[Page 63942]]

fungiformis, Porites desilveri, Porites eridani, Porites ornata, 
Rhizopsammia wellingtoni, and Stylophora madagascarensis.

DATES: Information and comments on the subject action must be received 
by December 24, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data on this 
document, identified by the code NOAA-NMFS-2013-0138, by any of the 
following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic comments via 
the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0138, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: 301-713-4060, Attn: Dwayne Meadows.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous), although submitting comments anonymously will prevent us 
from contacting you if we have difficulty retrieving your submission. 
Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, 
Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of the petition and related materials are available upon 
request from the Director, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East 
West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, or online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/petition81.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dwayne Meadows, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8403.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On July 15, 2013, we received a petition from the WildEarth 
Guardians to list 81 marine species as threatened or endangered under 
the ESA and to designate critical habitat under the ESA. Copies of this 
petition are available from us (see ADDRESSES). This finding addresses 
the 23 species of corals identified as part of this petition. The 23 
coral species considered in this finding are: Acropora roseni, Acropora 
suharsonoi, Alveopora excelsa, Alveopora minuta, Cantharellus noumeae, 
Ctenella chagius, Hydnophora bonsai, Isopora togianensis, Lithophyllon 
ranjithi, Lobophyllia serratus, Millepora boschmai, Millepora striata, 
Montipora setosa, Parasimplastrea sheppardi, Pectinia maxima, 
Pocillopora fungiformis, Porites desilveri, Porites eridani, Porites 
ornata, Rhizopsammia wellingtoni, Siderastrea glynni, Stylophora 
madagascarensis, and Tubastraea floreana.
    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 days 
of receipt of a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered, 
the Secretary of Commerce make a finding on whether that petition 
presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that the petitioned action may be warranted, and to promptly publish 
the finding in the Federal Register (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A)). When we 
find that substantial scientific or commercial information in a 
petition indicates that the petitioned action may be warranted (a 
``positive 90-day finding''), we are required to promptly commence a 
review of the status of the species concerned, which includes 
conducting a comprehensive review of the best available scientific and 
commercial information. Within 12 months of receiving the petition, we 
must conclude the review with a finding as to whether, in fact, the 
petitioned action is warranted. Because the finding at the 12-month 
stage is based on a significantly more thorough review of the available 
information, a ``may be warranted'' finding at the 90-day stage does 
not prejudge the outcome of the status review.
    Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a ``species,'' 
which is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate 
species, any distinct population segment (DPS) that interbreeds when 
mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). This finding only addresses invertebrate 
corals, so the DPS option cannot be considered. A species or subspecies 
is ``endangered'' if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range, and ``threatened'' if it is likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), 
respectively; 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and (20)). Pursuant to the ESA and our 
implementing regulations, the determination of whether a species is 
threatened or endangered shall be based on any one or a combination of 
the following five ESA section 4(a)(1) factors: The present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or 
range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms; and any other natural or manmade factors 
affecting the species' existence (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1), 50 CFR 
424.11(c)).
    ESA-implementing regulations issued jointly by NMFS and the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (50 CFR 424.14(b)) define ``substantial 
information'' in the context of reviewing a petition to list, delist, 
or reclassify a species as the amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted. When evaluating whether substantial information is 
contained in a petition, we must consider whether the petition: (1) 
Clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the 
scientific and any common name of the species involved; (2) contains 
detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure, 
describing, based on available information, past and present numbers 
and distribution of the species involved and any threats faced by the 
species; (3) provides information regarding the status of the species 
over all or a significant portion of its range; and (4) is accompanied 
by the appropriate supporting documentation in the form of 
bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of 
reports or letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)).
    At the 90-day stage, we evaluate the petitioner's request based 
upon the information in the petition, including its references and the 
information readily available in our files. We do not conduct 
additional research, and we do not solicit information from parties 
outside the agency to help us in evaluating the petition. We will 
accept the petitioner's sources and characterizations of the 
information presented, if they appear to be based on accepted 
scientific principles, unless we have specific information in our files 
that indicates the petition's information is incorrect, unreliable, 
obsolete, or otherwise irrelevant to the requested action. Information 
that is susceptible to more than one interpretation or that is 
contradicted by other available information will not be dismissed at 
the

[[Page 63943]]

90-day finding stage, so long as it is reliable and a reasonable person 
would conclude that it supports the petitioner's assertions. Conclusive 
information indicating that the species may meet the ESA's requirements 
for listing is not required to make a positive 90-day finding. We will 
not conclude that a lack of specific information alone negates a 
positive 90-day finding if a reasonable person would conclude that the 
unknown information itself suggests an extinction risk of concern for 
the species at issue.
    To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we 
evaluate whether the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the subject species may be 
either threatened or endangered, as defined by the ESA. First, we 
evaluate whether the information presented in the petition, along with 
the information readily available in our files, indicates that the 
petitioned entity constitutes a ``species'' eligible for listing under 
the ESA. Next, we evaluate whether the information indicates that the 
species at issue faces extinction risk that is cause for concern; this 
may be indicated in information expressly discussing the species' 
status and trends, or in information describing impacts and threats to 
the species. We evaluate any information on specific demographic 
factors pertinent to evaluating extinction risk for the species at 
issue (e.g., population abundance and trends, productivity, spatial 
structure, age structure, sex ratio, diversity, current and historical 
range, habitat integrity or fragmentation), and the potential 
contribution of identified demographic risks to extinction risk for the 
species. We then evaluate the potential links between these demographic 
risks and the causative impacts and threats identified in section 
4(a)(1).
    Information presented on impacts or threats should be specific to 
the species and should reasonably suggest that one or more of these 
factors may be operative threats that act or have acted on the species 
to the point that it may warrant protection under the ESA. Broad 
statements about generalized threats to the species, or identification 
of factors that could negatively impact a species, do not constitute 
substantial information that listing may be warranted. We look for 
information indicating that not only is the particular species exposed 
to a factor, but that the species may be responding in a negative 
fashion; then we assess the potential significance of that negative 
response.
    Many petitions identify risk classifications made by non-
governmental organizations, such as the International Union for 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the American Fisheries Society, or 
NatureServe, as evidence of extinction risk for a species. Risk 
classifications by other organizations or made under other Federal or 
state statutes may be informative, but such classification alone may 
not provide the rationale for a positive 90-day finding under the ESA. 
For example, as explained by NatureServe, their assessments of a 
species' conservation status do ``not constitute a recommendation by 
NatureServe for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act'' because 
NatureServe assessments ``have different criteria, evidence 
requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of 
endangered and threatened species, and therefore these two types of 
lists should not be expected to coincide'' (http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/statusAssessment.jsp). Thus, when a petition cites such 
classifications, we will evaluate the source of information that the 
classification is based upon in light of the standards on extinction 
risk and impacts or threats discussed above.
    In this petition the petitioner relies almost exclusively on the 
risk classifications of the IUCN as the source of information on the 
status of each petitioned species. All of the petitioned species are 
listed as ``endangered'' or ``critically endangered'' on the IUCN 
Redlist and the petitioner notes this as an explicit consideration in 
offering petitions on these species. Species classifications under the 
IUCN and the ESA are not equivalent, and data standards, criteria used 
to evaluate species, and treatment of uncertainty are also not 
necessarily the same. Thus, we instead consider the information on 
threats identified by the petitioners, as well as the data on which 
they are based, as they pertain to each petitioned species.
    All of the species considered in this petition are listed in 
Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered 
Species (CITES). According to Article II of CITES, species listed on 
Appendix II are those that are ``not necessarily now threatened with 
extinction but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species 
is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization 
incompatible with their survival.'' Based on the CITES definitions and 
standards for listing species on Appendix II, the species' actual 
listing on Appendix II is not itself an inherent indication that these 
species may now warrant threatened or endangered status under the ESA. 
Species classifications under CITES and the ESA are not equivalent, and 
criteria used to evaluate species are not the same. Thus, we instead 
consider the available information on the threat of international trade 
(see below).

Species Description

    Most of the petitioned coral species are shallow water, reef-
building anthozoan corals. The two Millepora species are hydrozoan 
corals and thus differ in biology more from the other species. All of 
the species occur in the Pacific and/or Indian oceans except Millepora 
striata, which occurs in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and western 
Atlantic Ocean. Only Porites eridani is noted as occurring in the 
United States (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands); all 
of the other corals have strictly foreign distributions.
    The introductory part of the coral section of the petition provides 
general background information on corals, including anatomy, symbiosis 
with photosynthetic zooxanthellae, reef formation, physiological needs, 
and biodiversity. A general description of threats following the five 
ESA Section 4(a)(1) factors is provided in the introductory coral 
section of the petition and is meant to apply to all of the petitioned 
corals. This section discusses the following threats: Extraction, 
utilization, habitat destruction, sedimentation, disease, predation by 
crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), regulatory mechanisms, 
human population growth, climate change, and synergistic effects. The 
species-specific information section follows and provides information 
from the IUCN assessment for each species. This species-specific 
section includes less than one page of unique material per species, 
including the species' CITES status, range and habitat information (see 
specific discussion by species below in the ``Analysis of the 
Petition'' section). Entries for only a few species provide species-
specific population status or trend information. Following the first 
page of information for each species there is a section of about three 
pages in length per species that considers the five ESA Section 4(a)(1) 
threat factors for each species. Most of this information is repeated 
verbatim for each species, and generally includes and repeats the same 
points that were made in the introductory part of the coral section of 
the petition. We consider the species-specific information provided 
separately in the ``Analysis of the Petition'' section below.
    Information in our files included the materials cited in the status 
review

[[Page 63944]]

report, management report, and supplemental information report for our 
consideration of a separate petition to list 82 species of corals 
(Brainard et al., 2011; PIRO, 2012; and NMFS, 2012, respectively). In 
addition we relied on a few citations from the status review report 
that dealt directly with the petitioned species or their close 
taxonomic relatives, including Forsman et al. (2005) and Richards 
(2009).

Analysis of the Petition

General Information

    The petition clearly indicates the administrative measure 
recommended and gives the scientific and common names of the species 
involved. The petition also contains a narrative justification for the 
recommended measures and provides limited information on the species' 
geographic distribution, habitat use, and threats. Limited information 
is provided on past and present numbers, population status and trends 
for all but a couple of species. A synopsis of our analysis of the 
information provided in the petition and readily available in our files 
is provided below.
    Based on the information presented in the petition, along with the 
information readily available in our files, we find that each of the 23 
petitioned species constitutes a valid ``species'' eligible for listing 
under the ESA as each is a valid taxonomic species.
    The introductory threats discussion is general and not tied to any 
of the specific petitioned species besides information later repeated 
in the species-specific section (discussed below). The petitioners cite 
the Brainard et al. (2011) status review report for many of the general 
threats to corals. Other recent citations in this section not available 
during our status review of the petition to list 82 corals include 
online news articles and the most recent ``Reefs at Risk'' (Burke et 
al., 2012) review. Many other citations are undated, which inhibits 
assessment of the quality of the information presented. The general 
threats discussion is not clearly or causally linked to the petitioned 
species or their range or habitat (e.g., discussion of dead zone in the 
northern Gulf of Mexico is from an area outside the range of the 
petitioned species; a discussion suggesting that disease affects all 
Indo-Pacific corals only because some disease occurs generally in the 
region). The discussion of regulatory mechanisms argues that there are 
no adequate regulatory mechanisms because the species are listed as 
endangered or critically endangered by IUCN and asserts that all wild 
populations are declining based on overall trends in coral reef 
habitat, which is assumed to be a proxy for population trends despite 
evidence in the petition itself to the contrary (see below). However, 
generalized evidence of declining habitat or declining populations per 
se are neither evidence of declines large enough to infer extinction 
risk that may meet the definition of either threatened or endangered 
under the ESA, nor evidence of inadequate regulatory mechanisms, since 
sustainable management regimes can have periods of declining 
populations. The discussion of CITES incorrectly characterizes the 
applicability of CITES provisions when countries that are parties to 
CITES trade with non-party countries, and makes an unsubstantiated 
generalization that enforcement issues for some range countries for 
largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotetti) relate to most or all countries 
involved in coral trade. The two Millepora species are listed in the 
petition as being in Appendix I and II of CITES. This is incorrect; 
they are only in Appendix II. The petitioner's general discussion of 
climate change acknowledges that some corals are resistant to 
bleaching, but continues to attempt to generalize bleaching as an 
extinction threat to all corals or to corals within the same genus when 
there are better data on a congeneric species. Likewise they imply that 
ocean acidification is a threat to all the petitioned species. Data in 
our files as summarized by Brainard et al. (2011) show that adaptation 
and acclimatization to increased ocean temperatures are possible, that 
there is intra-genus variation in susceptibility to bleaching, ocean 
acidification, and sedimentation, that at least some species have 
already expanded their range in response to climate change, and that 
not all species are seriously affected by ocean acidification.
    While the information in this introductory section is otherwise 
largely accurate and suggests concern for the status of corals 
generally, its broadness, generality, and speculative nature, and the 
failure of the petitioner to make reasonable connections between the 
threats discussed and the status of the individual petitioned species, 
means that we cannot find that this information reasonably suggests 
that one or more of these threat factors may be operative threats that 
act or have acted on any of the petitioned species to the point that it 
may warrant protection under the ESA. There is little information in 
this introductory section indicating that particular petitioned species 
may be responding in a negative fashion to any of the discussed 
threats. Therefore, we determine that the information in this section 
does not constitute substantial information that listing may be 
warranted for any of the petitioned species.
    The next part of the petition consists of individual species 
accounts for each of the 23 petitioned corals. Accompanying the 
petition account for each species is a reference to the IUCN assessment 
from 2008, a list of references used in the IUCN assessment, and our 
status review report for a prior petition to list 82 species of corals 
(Brainard et al., 2011). For each species the petitioner describes the 
species' range and preferred habitat type from the IUCN analysis. For 
most species the petitioner offers no species-specific life history, 
abundance, or threat information (see discussion of exceptions below). 
Many do have supposedly species-specific statements regarding 
vulnerability to bleaching, disease or other threats, but these 
statements do not provide citations to scientific literature 
establishing these vulnerabilities (including within the IUCN analyses) 
or the petitioner bases their vulnerability determination on inferences 
from research on the vulnerability of other related species (usually 
within the same genus) that may or may not be applicable to the 
petitioned species. Based on information in our files on the intra-
genus variation in threat response in corals discussed above, we do not 
believe that these vulnerability determinations constitute substantial 
information that listing may be warranted.
    The petitioners use 2004 ocean-basin wide estimates of reef habitat 
that has already been destroyed or is ``likely to be destroyed within 
20 years'' (Wilkinson, 2004) as proxies for likely trends in population 
size for the petitioned species. We find this problematic for a number 
of reasons: The habitat loss data are broad geographic estimates that 
do not necessarily reflect the actual range of the petitioned species; 
it is unclear on what basis and using what data Wilkinson (2004) was 
able to estimate future habitat loss; not all species respond the same 
way to the threats underlying the assumed habitat loss (see above 
discussion); and in fact, the estimated trend in population status 
contradicts other information in the petitions and IUCN assessments for 
some species (e.g., Ctenella chagius, Isopora togianensis, Porites 
desilveri, and Stylophora madagascarensis) where the IUCN assessments 
notes that those

[[Page 63945]]

species are currently ``common''. Moreover, even if true, the estimated 
population declines based on these expected habitat losses do not 
exceed the levels of population loss in actively and sustainably 
managed fishery species. Therefore, we do not believe these population 
decline estimates constitute substantial information that listing may 
be warranted for the petitioned species.
    Finally, within each species' petition the petitioner provides a 
discussion of the ESA section 4(a)(1) threats. Much of this discussion, 
especially for climate change effects, repeats almost verbatim 
discussion in the general introduction for all corals. Species-specific 
information in these petitions is discussed further below.
    Overall, the petition provides no species-specific information for 
15 of the petitioned species and solely relies on generalizations from 
related species and broad assumptions that potential threats are 
actually influencing the petitioned species. For each of these 15 
species listed below, we also had no additional information in our 
files with which to assess status or potential extinction risk to the 
species. Therefore, based on our policies as described above for 
reviewing petitions at this stage, we find that for the 15 petitioned 
species where there is no species-specific trend, life-history or 
threat information, the information presented in the petition does not 
constitute substantial information that listing may be warranted. The 
15 species to which this conclusion applies are: Acropora roseni, 
Alveopora excelsa, Alveopora minuta, Ctenella chagius, Hydnophora 
bonsai, Isopora togianensis, Millepora striata, Montipora setosa, 
Parasimplastrea sheppardi, Pectinia maxima, Pocillopora fungiformis, 
Porites desilveri, Porites eridani, Porites ornata, and Stylophora 
madagascarensis.

Species-Specific Information

    For the following species, at least some species-specific 
information on population trends, life history, and/or threats was 
provided in the petition or available in our files in addition to the 
general information discussed above. Below we analyze this species-
specific information in light of the standards of the ESA and our 
policies as described above.
    The petition notes that Acropora suharsonoi is commercially traded 
and cites information that the total number of live and raw specimens 
exported for this species in 2005 was 175. The petitioner claims that 
any trade of species categorized by IUCN as endangered or critically 
endangered is a threat, despite their status on CITES Appendix II. The 
petitioner provides no justification for this claim, and it contradicts 
the policy and intent of CITES Appendix II listings, which establish 
procedures to ensure that trade in Appendix II listed species is 
sustainable and which the U.S. government fully supports as the first 
party to CITES. The petitioner does not explain how this level of 
trade, alone or in combination with other threats, is likely to imply 
that this species may be threatened or endangered under the ESA. 
Therefore, we find that for A. suharsonoi, the species-specific 
information presented in the petition does not constitute substantial 
information that listing may be warranted.
    Cantharellus noumeae occurs only in a restricted area on reefs in 
water close to soft sediment habitats in sheltered bays in New 
Caledonia where it is exposed to mining activities and urbanization 
causing habitat degradation from the sedimentation and potential 
pollutants. We have no additional information on the mining activity, 
but the limited area of occupancy of the species of less than 225 km\2\ 
is cause for concern that the urbanization, combined with even a single 
mining operation with poor sediment controls could threaten this 
species. Therefore, we conclude that the species-specific information 
presented in the petition constitutes substantial information that 
listing may be warranted for C. noumeae.
    The petitioner cites the IUCN assessment that notes that 
Lithophyllon ranjithi is exposed to a threat of siltation from 
deforestation activity somewhere near or within its range. While this 
species is restricted to a relatively small area of about 250km\2\ in 
northeast Borneo, the petitioner does not provide information on the 
location or extent of the deforestation activity nor the extent of the 
range of the species affected by deforestation. Therefore, we find that 
for L. ranjithi, the species-specific information presented in the 
petition does not constitute substantial information that listing may 
be warranted.
    For Lobophyllia serratus, the petitioner and IUCN assessment note 
that the species is ``likely collected for the aquarium trade.'' No 
information on the extent of this trade or whether it exceeds 
sustainable levels, or occurs illegally outside the CITES Appendix II 
processes, is provided or implied. Therefore, we find that for L. 
serratus, the species-specific information presented in the petition 
does not constitute substantial information that listing may be 
warranted.
    Species-specific population data are available for Millepora 
boschmai. According to the IUCN assessment, the species was the least 
abundant of the three Millepora species in its range but was still not 
uncommon. It was then almost eliminated by the 1982-83 El Ni[ntilde]o 
Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, but eight live colonies were found 
within its restricted range after the ENSO. However, after a second 
ENSO in 1997-98, all known colonies were found dead (Glynn et al., 
2001). Since that time ``no live colonies have been observed, despite 
targeted searches throughout the former distribution'' (Guzman and 
Edgar, 2008). Brainard et al. (2011) assessed the status of M. boschmai 
to provide an extreme case study to provide context for their analysis 
of the status of the 82 coral species petitioned under the ESA in 2009. 
They also concluded that the species was extinct. The purpose of the 
ESA is to conserve species that are in danger of or threatened with 
extinction. The definition of an endangered species is ``any species 
which is [emphasis added] in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range'' (Section 3(6)). Species that are 
already extinct are not protected by the ESA. The best available 
scientific information suggests that M. boschmai is not known to be 
alive or exist in the wild and may already be extinct; therefore, we 
find that this species does not qualify for listing as endangered or 
threatened under the ESA.
    Some species-specific abundance data exist for Rhizopsammia 
wellingtoni, which is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Prior to the 
1982-83 ENSO the species was extremely abundant at Tagus Cove on the 
island of Isabela (approximately 13 percent mean cover of the reef 
surface at 15 m depth). According to the IUCN assessment, all colonies 
known prior to the 1982-83 ENSO have disappeared. A few additional 
colonies were found at two sites in the Galapagos as late as 2000, but 
these are also now extirpated. The purpose of the ESA is to conserve 
species that are in danger of or threatened with extinction. The 
definition of an endangered species is ``any species which is [emphasis 
added] in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range'' (Section 3(6)). Species that are already extinct are not 
protected by the ESA. The best available scientific information 
suggests that R. wellingtoni is not known to be alive or exist in the 
wild and may already be extinct; therefore, we find that this species 
does not

[[Page 63946]]

qualify for listing as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
    Siderastrea glynni was first discovered in 1992 as an endemic 
species in Panama in a small area near the Pacific opening of the 
Panama Canal. Only five individual colonies have ever been discovered. 
Four currently survive. According to the IUCN assessment, during the 
1997-98 El Ni[ntilde]o the four S. glynni colonies started to 
deteriorate, displaying bleaching and tissue loss. Due to their 
unhealthy state, the four colonies were moved to Smithsonian Tropical 
Research Institute (STRI) aquaria in Panama where they remain to this 
day. Attempts made by STRI staff to propagate this coral in the STRI 
aquaria have produced 11 propagules, which also remain in captivity. 
Recent genetic work by Forsman et al. (2005) has shown that this 
species is genetically very similar to the Caribbean species S. 
siderea. Their study could not differentiate between the possibility 
that S. siderea and S. glynni are the same species and that S. glynni 
may have recently passed through or been carried across the Panama 
Canal to the Pacific Ocean side, or the alternate possibility that S. 
glynni evolved from S. siderea 2 to 2.3 million years ago during a 
period of high sea level that may have breached the Isthmus of Panama. 
However, because of the possibility that S. glynni is a unique species, 
we conclude that the species-specific information presented in the 
petition and our files constitutes substantial information that listing 
this species may be warranted.
    Some species-specific abundance data exist for Tubastraea floreana. 
The species is also endemic to the Galapagos Islands. According to the 
IUCN assessment, prior to the 1982-83 ENSO the species was known from 
six sites on four islands. Since the 1982-83 ENSO specimens have only 
been observed at two sites. At one of these two sites the species has 
not been seen since 2001, leaving only a single confirmed site with 
living specimens. We have no additional information on this species in 
our files. Therefore, we conclude that the species-specific information 
presented in the petition constitutes substantial information that 
listing may be warranted for T. floreana.

Petition Finding

    After reviewing the information contained in the petition, as well 
as information readily available in our files, including the sections 
of the petition applicable to all of the petitioned corals as well as 
the species-specific information, we conclude the petition in its 
entirety does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted for 20 of 
the 23 species of corals. These 20 species are: Acropora roseni, 
Acropora suharsoni, Alveopora excelsa, Alveopora minuta, Ctenella 
chagius, Hydnophora bonsai, Isopora togianensis, Lithophyllon ranjithi, 
Lobophyllia serratus, Millepora boschmai, Millepora striata, Montipora 
setosa, Parasimplastrea sheppardi, Pectinia maxima, Pocillopora 
fungiformis, Porites desilveri, Porites eridani, Porites ornata, 
Rhizopsammia wellingtoni, and Stylophora madagascarensis. In contrast, 
as described above, we find that there is substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating the petitioned action may be 
warranted for 3 of the 23 species of corals and we hereby announce the 
initiation of a status review for each of these three species to 
determine whether the petition action is warranted. These 3 species 
are: Cantharellus noumeae, Siderastrea glynni, and Tubastraea floreana.

Information Solicited

    To ensure that the status review is based on the best available 
scientific and commercial data, we are soliciting information relevant 
to whether the three species we believe may be warranted for listing 
(Cantharellus noumeae, Siderastrea glynni, and Tubastraea floreana) are 
threatened or endangered. Specifically, we are soliciting information, 
including unpublished information, in the following areas: (1) 
Historical and current distribution and abundance of each species 
throughout its range; (2) historical and current population trends; (3) 
life history; (4) data on international trade; (5) any current or 
planned activities, including additional details on those threats 
discussed above, that may adversely impact the species; (6) current 
status and plans for husbandry or release of Siderstrea glynni, (7) 
ongoing or planned efforts to protect and restore the population and 
its habitat; and (8) management, regulatory, and enforcement 
information. We request that all information be accompanied by: (1) 
supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or 
reprints of pertinent publications; and (2) the submitter's name, 
address, and any association, institution, or business that the person 
represents.

References Cited

    A complete list of references is available upon request to the 
Office of Protected Resources (see ADDRESSES).

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: October 18, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-25095 Filed 10-24-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P