[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 170 (Wednesday, September 3, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 52276-52293]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-20955]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 223

[Docket No. 130718637-3637-01]
RIN 0648-XC775


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition 
To List Seven Indo-Pacific Species of Pomacentrid Reef Fish 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.

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SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90-day finding on seven Indo-Pacific 
species included in a petition to list eight species of pomacentrid 
reef fish as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA). These are the orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and six 
other damselfishes: The Hawaiian dascyllus (Dascyllus albisella), blue-
eyed damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus), black-axil chromis 
(Chromis atripectoralis), blue-green damselfish (Chromis viridis), 
reticulated damselfish (Dascyllus reticulatus), and blackbar devil or 
Dick's damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon dickii). Another of our regional 
offices is leading the response to the petition to list the yellowtail 
damselfish (Microspathodon chrysurus) and a separate 90-day finding 
will be issued later for this species. We find that the petition 
presents substantial information indicating that the petitioned action 
may be warranted for the orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula). We will 
conduct a status review for this species to determine if the petitioned 
action is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, 
we are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to 
Amphiprion percula from any interested party. We find that the petition 
fails to present substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for the 
remaining six petitioned Indo-Pacific species: The Hawaiian dascyllus 
(Dascyllus albisella), reticulated damselfish (Dascyllus reticulatus), 
blue-eyed damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus), black-axil 
chromis (Chromis atripectoralis), blue-green damselfish (Chromis 
viridis), and blackbar devil or Dick's damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon 
dickii).

DATES: Information and comments on the subject action must be received 
by November 3, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data on this 
document, identified by the code NOAA-NMFS-2014-0072, 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-2014-0072, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Regulatory Branch Chief, 
Protected Resources Division, Pacific Islands Regional Office, NMFS 
Protected Resources Division, 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, 
HI 96818.
    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 us. 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 references are available upon request 
from the Regulatory Branch Chief, Protected Resources Division, Pacific 
Islands Regional Office, NMFS Protected Resources Division, 1845 Wasp 
Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818, or online at: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_esa_section_4.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jean Higgins, NMFS Pacific Islands 
Regional Office, 808-725-5151.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On September 14, 2012, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity to list eight species of pomacentrid reef fish as 
threatened or endangered under the ESA and to

[[Page 52277]]

designate critical habitat for these species concurrent with the 
listing. The species are the orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and 
seven other damselfishes: The yellowtail damselfish (Microspathodon 
chrysurus), Hawaiian dascyllus (Dascyllus albisella), blue-eyed 
damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus), black-axil chromis 
(Chromis atripectoralis), blue-green damselfish (Chromis viridis), 
reticulated damselfish (Dascyllus reticulatus), and blackbar devil or 
Dick's damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon dickii). Copies of this petition 
are available from us online (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/petitions/pomacentrid_reef_fish_petition_2012.pdf)
 or by mail (see ADDRESSES, above). Given the geographic range of these 
species, we divided our initial response to the petition between our 
Southeast Regional Office (SERO) and Pacific Islands Regional Office 
(PIRO). PIRO led the response for the seven Indo-Pacific species 
reported herein. SERO is leading the response to the petition to list 
the yellowtail damselfish (Microspathodon chrysurus) and a separate 90-
day finding will be issued for this species.

ESA Statutory and Regulatory Provisions and Evaluation Framework

    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 promptly publish such 
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 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, as 
compared to the narrow scope of review at the 90-day stage, a ``may be 
warranted'' finding at the 90-day stage does not prejudge the outcome 
of a 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)). A joint NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (USFWS) policy clarifies the agencies' interpretation of the 
phrase ``distinct population segment'' for the purposes of listing, 
delisting, and reclassifying a species under the ESA (``DPS Policy''; 
61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). A species, subspecies, or DPS 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 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 USFWS (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. In 
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 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)).
    Judicial decisions have clarified the appropriate scope and 
limitations of the Services' review of petitions at the 90-day finding 
stage, in making a determination whether a petitioned action ``may be'' 
warranted. As a general matter, these decisions hold that a petition 
need not establish a ``strong likelihood'' or a ``high probability'' 
that a species is either threatened or endangered to support a positive 
90-day finding.
    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 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 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 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,

[[Page 52278]]

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 on the 
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 the classification alone may not 
provide the rationale for a positive 90-day finding under the ESA. 
Thus, when a petition cites such classifications, we will evaluate the 
source of information upon which the classification is based in light 
of the species extinction risk and impacts or threats discussed above.

Species Descriptions

Orange Clownfish (Amphiprion percula)

    The orange clownfish is also referred to as an anemone fish because 
of its symbiotic relationship with host sea anemones. Individuals are 
orange with three white bands, with the middle band bulging forward 
toward the head centrally. Black stripes separate the orange and white 
coloration on the body. They can reach a maximum length of 11 cm 
(Florida Museum of Natural History, 2011). Amphiprion percula ranges 
from Queensland, Australia to parts of Melanesia, including the 
northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR), northern New Guinea, New Britain, 
Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands (Fishbase.org). This range is mostly 
restricted to areas inside the Coral Triangle area of the Pacific (with 
the exception of the northern GBR). It does not occur anywhere within 
U.S. jurisdiction. It is a non-migratory species that inhabits lagoon 
and seaward reefs at depths of one to 15 m (Florida Museum of Natural 
History, 2011). The petition did not present any information on the 
global population size or trends of A. percula and we do not have any 
information on A. percula's global population size in our files.
    Amphiprion percula individuals live in symbiotic association with 
three species of anemone, Heteractis crispa, H. magnifica, and 
Stichodactyla gigantea (Ollerton et al., 2007). This species forages on 
algae and plankton as well as bits of food leftover on its host anemone 
tentacles (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2011). Reproduction 
occurs throughout the year when the male prepares a nest site. The 
petition states that females lay anywhere from 100 to over 1,000 eggs 
depending on body size and age citing Buston and Elith (2011), however 
the authors actually report an average of 324 eggs per clutch (ranged 
from 1 to 878) in their results. Incubation takes six to seven days, 
after which larvae hatch and enter an eight to twelve day pelagic 
larval phase (Buston et al., 2007). The expected life span for a female 
clownfish is 30 years (Buston and Garcia, 2007).

Black-axil Chromis (Chromis atripectoralis)

    The Black-axil chromis is a damselfish with a broad geographic 
range occurring throughout most of the Indo-Pacific; they range from 
the Ryuku Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe Island, east 
through the islands of Oceania except the Hawaiian Islands, Marquesas, 
and Pitcairn Islands, and west in the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and 
Seychelles (Randall, 2005). Within U.S. Pacific possessions this 
species occurs in American Samoa and the Marianas archipelago (Allen, 
1991). Chromis atripectoralis and C. viridis are difficult to 
distinguish in the field and have overlapping ranges. They have often 
been treated as a species complex by researchers.
    The petition did not present any information regarding the global 
population size or trends of C. atripectoralis. The NMFS Coral Reef 
Ecosystem Division (CRED) conducts surveys on coral reefs throughout 
the U.S. Pacific territories including the Main and Northwestern 
Hawaiian Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, 
and the Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIAs). Data from surveys 
conducted roughly biennially since 2009 provides some insight into this 
species' abundance in the outer edges of this species range. Since this 
is relatively recent, we consider all of these surveys to represent 
current estimates of density and not to contain any trend information. 
For the C. atripectoralis/C. viridis complex, CRED provided us an 
average population estimate from within U.S. Pacific possessions of 
approximately 770,000 based on calculations of density and habitat area 
at survey sites; the estimated population range was identified as 0 to 
1,500,000 (one standard error on either side of the mean). Although 
these abundance estimates have large error bars associated with them 
and must be interpreted with caution, they represent the best available 
information regarding the species' current abundance. These survey 
areas only represent a small portion of the broad geographic ranges for 
these two species. Density is likely higher in other parts of their 
ranges because CRED survey sites are located at the edges of their 
geographic ranges, where we would expect population densities to be 
lower in comparison to the core range. However, even if we assume the 
densities measured by CRED and applied to the total habitat area within 
survey sites apply throughout the entire ranges of these species which 
includes hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of coral reef 
habitat area, the current global population size is likely in the 
hundreds of millions.
    Chromis atripectoralis individuals are blue-green in color shading 
to white ventrally and can grow up to 11 cm in length. While very 
similar in appearance to C. viridis, C. atripectoralis is distinguished 
by the black base (axil) of the pectoral fin and more branched pectoral 
rays (Froukh and Kochzius, 2008). This species is commonly observed 
associated with branching corals, primarily Acropora and Pocillopora, 
in a depth range of two to 15 m. Adults are typically seen in foraging 
aggregations above corals where they feed on zooplankton in the water 
column (Randall, 2005). Chromis species exhibit a pelagic larval phase 
that ranges from 17 to 47 days (Allen, 1991). The petition provided no 
additional biological information for this species, nor do we have any 
in our files.

Blue-green Damselfish (Chromis viridis)

    The blue-green damselfish has a broad geographic range occurring 
throughout most of the Indo-Pacific; they range from the Red Sea and 
east coast of Africa to the Line Islands and Tuamotu

[[Page 52279]]

Archipelago, Ryuku Islands to the Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia 
(Randall, 2005). Within U.S. Pacific possessions, C. viridis occurs in 
American Samoa, the Marianas archipelago (Allen, 1991), and the PRIAs 
(NMFS' Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) unpublished 
data).
    The petition did not present any information regarding the global 
population size or trends of C. viridis. As noted above, we treated C. 
atripectoralis and C. viridis as a species complex and estimate a 
current global population size in the hundreds of millions, based on 
CRED data from survey areas within U.S. Pacific possessions.
    Individuals are blue-green in color shading to white ventrally with 
a blue line from the front of the snout to the eye and can reach 10 cm 
in length (Randall, 2005). Chromis viridis inhabits shallow protected 
inshore and lagoon reefs and is commonly observed associated with 
branching corals, primarily Acropora and Pocillopora, in a depth range 
of one to 12 meters (Allen, 1991). This species is planktivorous, 
feeding mainly on copepods and crustacean larvae in large aggregations 
above branching corals (Randall, 2005). Spawning involves a large 
number of eggs that hatch in two to three days. The species is 
oviparous with distinct pairing during breeding (Fishbase.org). Chromis 
species exhibit a pelagic larval phase that ranges from 17 to 47 days 
(Allen, 1991). The petition provided no additional biological 
information for this species, nor do we have any in our files.

Hawaiian Dascyllus (Dascyllus albisella)

    The Hawaiian dascyllus, also known as the domino damselfish, is 
endemic to the United States, occurring only in Hawaii and Johnston 
Atoll (Danilowicz, 1995; Asoh and Yoshikawa, 2002).
    The petition provided no estimate of global population size or 
trends for this species. The entire range of D. albisella is within 
CRED survey areas so we have information in our files regarding current 
density. CRED then calculated for us estimates of abundance based on 
the density data and habitat area at survey sites as described above. 
These abundance estimates have large error bars associated with them 
and must be interpreted with caution, however, they represent the best 
available information regarding the species' current abundance. The 
current global population estimate provided to us by CRED for D. 
albisella ranges from 5,866,000 to 17,121,000 (one standard error on 
either side of the mean) with a mean estimate of 11,493,000. However, 
because D. albisella is common at depths down to 80 meters, far deeper 
than the 30 meter maximum depth of CRED surveys and the estimated 20 
meter depth of coral reef area figures, the entire population may be 
even larger.
    Individuals are small and deep-bodied, reaching a maximum length of 
13 cm. Adults are pale or dark with white spots fading with age, while 
juveniles are black with a white spot on each side and a turquoise spot 
on the head (Stevenson, 1963). Dascyllus albisella is commonly observed 
associated with branching corals (Allen, 1991; Randall, 1985) in a 
depth range of one to 84 m. This species is planktivorous, feeding in 
schools above the reef on the larvae of mysid shrimp, shrimp and crabs, 
copepods, pelagic tunicates, and other zooplankton (Randall, 1985). 
Spawning occurs cyclically throughout the year, though spawning 
activity peaks from June to September or October (Asoh and Yoshikawa, 
2002). Cycles last two to three days and subsequent cycles occur every 
five to seven days (Asoh, 2003). Increasing temperature appears to cue 
the initiation of spawning and females spawn repeatedly over a season 
with various partners (Asoh and Yoshikawa, 2002). Females lay an 
average of 25,000 eggs per clutch (Danilowicz, 1995). The species has a 
pelagic larval phase estimated to last for 25 to 29 days (Booth, 1992). 
Life expectancy is estimated at up to 11 years. The petition provided 
no other biological information for this species, nor do we have any in 
our files.

Reticulated Damselfish (Dascyllus reticulatus)

    Dascyllus reticulatus is a damselfish with a broad geographic range 
occurring throughout most of the Indo-Pacific; it ranges from southern 
Japan to the Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe Island, New Caledonia, and 
Micronesia, east to the Tuamotu Archipelago and Pitcairn Islands, and 
west to western Australia, Cocos-Keeling Islands, and the Andaman Sea 
(Randall, 2005). Within U.S. Pacific possessions, they occur in 
American Samoa, the Marianas archipelago (Allen, 1991), and the PRIAs 
(PIFSC, unpublished data).
    The petition did not present any information regarding the global 
population size or trends of D. reticulatus. For D. reticulatus, CRED 
provided us a population estimate from within U.S. Pacific possessions 
ranging from 1.5 million to 7.7 million (one standard error on either 
side of the mean) with a mean of 4.6 million. Again, although these 
abundance estimates have large error bars associated with them and must 
be interpreted with caution, they represent the best available 
information regarding the species' current abundance. These survey 
areas only represent a small portion of the broad geographic range for 
D. reticulatus. Density is likely higher in other parts of its range 
because CRED survey sites are located at the edges of its geographic 
range. However, even if we assume the densities measured by CRED and 
applied to the total habitat area within survey sites applies 
throughout the entire range of this species which includes hundreds of 
thousands of square kilometers of coral reef habitat, the current 
global population size is likely in the billions.
    Individuals are pale blue-grey, the edges of the scales are 
narrowly black with a blackish bar anteriorly on the body continuing as 
a broad outer border on the spinous portion of the dorsal fin. They can 
attain 8.5 cm in length (Randall, 2005). Dascyllus reticulatus is 
commonly observed associated with branching corals, primarily Acropora 
and Pocillopora, in a depth range of one to 50 m (Allen, 1991; Randall, 
2005). This species is planktivorous and feeds on zooplankton a short 
distance above the reef (Sweatman, 1983; Randall, 2005). Dascyllus 
species exhibit a pelagic larval phase that ranges from 17 to 47 days 
(Allen, 1991). The petition did not provide any other biological 
information for this species, nor do we have any in our files.

Blackbar Devil or Dick's Damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon dickii)

    Plectroglyphidodon dickii is a damselfish with a broad geographic 
range occurring throughout most of the Indo-Pacific; it ranges from the 
Red Sea and east coast of Africa to the Islands of French Polynesia, 
and from the Ryuku Islands to New South Wales and Lord Howe Island in 
Australia (Randall, 2005). Within U.S. Pacific possessions, it occurs 
in American Samoa (Allen, 1991), the Marianas archipelago, and the 
PRIAs (PIFSC, unpublished data).
    The petition did not present any information regarding the global 
population size or trends of P. dickii. For P. dickii, CRED provided us 
a population estimate from within U.S. Pacific possessions ranging from 
5.3 million to 9 million (one standard error on either side of the 
mean), with a mean of 7.2 million. Again, although these abundance 
estimates have large error bars associated with them and must be 
interpreted with caution, they represent the best available information 
regarding the species' current abundance. These

[[Page 52280]]

survey areas only represent a small portion of the broad geographic 
range for P. dickii. Density is likely higher in other parts of its 
range because CRED survey sites are located at the edges of its 
geographic range. However, even if we assume the density measured by 
CRED and applied to the total habitat area within survey sites applies 
throughout the entire range of this species which includes hundreds of 
thousands of square kilometers of coral reef habitat, the current 
global population size is likely in the billions.
    Individuals are light brown with a sharp black band toward the back 
end with a white back end and tail; they reach a maximum length of 8.5 
cm (Randall, 2005). They are commonly observed associated with 
branching corals, primarily Acropora and Pocillopora (Allen, 1991; 
Randall, 2005). The petition states this species has a depth range of 
one to 12 meters, however information in our files from survey data 
collected by CRED indicates this species has been recorded in the 18 to 
30 meter depth range in the Marianas, PRIAs, and American Samoa. 
Plectroglyphidodon dickii is a territorial grazer that feeds on 
filamentous algae and small benthic invertebrates (Walsh et al., 2012). 
Cole et al. (2008) report this species to be a facultative corallivore 
(i.e., coral may make up some portion of its diet but is not an 
obligate diet requirement). Additional references provided by the 
petitioner indicate this species is primarily herbivorous, feeding on 
diatoms, blue-green algae, other types of filamentous red algae, small 
benthic invertebrates, and occasionally small fishes (Jones et al., 
2006; Walsh et al., 2012; Fishbase.org), and has been observed actively 
killing coral polyps in order to make more room for algae growth within 
its territory (Jones et al., 2006). The petition provided no other 
biological information for this species, nor do we have any in our 
files.

Blue-eyed Damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus)

    The blue-eyed damselfish has a broad geographic range occurring 
throughout most of the Indo-Pacific; it ranges from the east coast of 
Africa to the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, and Pitcairn Islands, 
and from the Ryuku and Ogasawara Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, 
Lord Howe, and Norfolk Island (Randall, 2005). Within U.S. Pacific 
possessions, it occurs in Hawaii, American Samoa, the Marianas 
archipelago (Allen, 1991) and the PRIAs (PIFSC, unpublished data).
    The petition did not present any information regarding the global 
population size or trends of P. johnstonianus. For P. johnstonianus, 
CRED provided us a current population estimate from within U.S. Pacific 
possessions ranging from 9.6 million to 20.3 million (one standard 
error on either side of the mean), with a mean of 15 million. Again, 
although these abundance estimates have large error bars associated 
with them and must be interpreted with caution, they represent the best 
available information regarding the species' current abundance. These 
survey areas only represent a small portion of the broad geographic 
range for P. johnstonianus. Density is likely higher in other parts of 
its range because CRED survey sites are located at the edges of its 
geographic range. However, even if we assume the densities measured by 
CRED and applied to the total habitat area within the survey sites 
apply throughout the entire range of this species which includes 
hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of coral reef habitat, the 
current global population size is likely well into the billions.
    Individuals have a pale yellowish grey body with a very broad black 
posterior bar, a head that is gray dorsally shading to yellowish grey 
ventrally, a violet-blue line on the sides of the snout, and lavender 
scales rimming the eyes (Randall, 2005). This species inhabits passes 
and outer reefs and is often observed associated with Acropora or 
Pocillopora corals (Allen, 1991; Randall, 2005). The petition provides 
a depth range for this species of two to 18 meters, however CRED data 
indicate this species has also been recorded in the 18 to 30 meter 
depth range in all U.S. territories in which it occurs. 
Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus may be an obligate corallivore feeding 
primarily on live coral polyps from Acropora, Monitpora, Porites, and 
Pocillopora species (Cole et al., 2008), although their diet is also 
reported to include benthic algae (Fishbase.org).

Analysis of the Petition

    For each of the seven petitioned species, we evaluated whether the 
petition provides the information and documentation required in 50 CFR 
424.14(b)(2). The petition clearly indicates the administrative measure 
recommended and gives the scientific and any common name 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. The petition did not 
include any information on past or present population numbers and it 
states that abundance and population trends are unknown for all 
petitioned species. The petition does not identify any risk 
classifications by other organizations for any petitioned species. The 
petition includes supporting references. The petition states that 
primary threats to the petitioned species include loss of coral reef 
habitat due to climate change, overharvest for the marine aquarium fish 
trade, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, and direct harm to essential 
biological functions from ocean acidification and ocean warming.
    The petition begins with general biological and ecological 
information about pomacentrids, and then provides sections for each 
petitioned species that contain a brief discussion of unique material 
for each species, including a species description, information on 
distribution, habitat, natural history, and threats, each with a range 
map. These sections are followed by sections providing generalized 
discussion of four of the five ESA listing factors that the petition 
states are affecting the extinction risk of the petitioned species, 
some of which contain limited species-specific information for one or 
more of the petitioned species.
    In the following sections, we use the information presented in the 
petition and in our files to determine whether the petitioned action 
may be warranted. We summarize our analysis and conclusions regarding 
the information presented by the petitioner and in our files on the 
specific ESA section 4(a)(1) factors affecting each of the species' 
risk of global extinction below.

General Threat Information

    According to the petition, four of the five causal threat factors 
in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA are adversely affecting the continued 
existence of each of the seven Indo-Pacific petitioned species: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (D) inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence.
    In this section we assess the generalized information that was 
provided regarding these four threats; the species-specific threat 
information will be addressed below in the individual species sections.

Climate Change Effects on Coral Habitat

    Under Listing Factor A, the petition states the petitioned species 
are ``threatened by the loss and degradation

[[Page 52281]]

of coral reef habitat due to temperature-induced mass bleaching events 
and ocean acidification. . . .'' The petition states broadly that ``the 
petitioned pomacentrid reef fish are habitat specialists that directly 
depend on live corals for survival, including shelter, reproduction, 
recruitment, and food.'' The petition explains this by stating 
``[t]hese damselfish all specialize on sensitive branching corals such 
as Acropora and Pocillopora which are particularly prone to bleaching. 
. . .''
    The petition discusses at length climate change impacts to corals 
and coral reefs and future predictions for worsening impacts to corals 
at a global scale. In general terms, ``climate'' refers to average 
weather conditions, as well as associated variability, over a long 
period of time (e.g., decades, centuries, or thousands of years). Thus 
we define ``climate change'' as a non-random change in the state of the 
climate (whether due to natural variability, human activity, or both) 
that can be identified by changes in the mean or variability of its 
properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer. In the context of coral reefs, the primary climate variables 
described relevant to climate change are ocean temperatures and 
acidity. Many of the climate-change references provided by the 
petitioner offer global predictions on future rises in sea surface 
temperature (Donner et al., 2005; Donner, 2009), ocean acidity (Hoegh-
Guldberg et al., 2007), coral bleaching (Hoegh-Guldberg, 1999; Donner 
et al., 2005; 2007; Burke et al., 2011) or coral reef decline in 
general (Hoegh-Guldberg, 1999; Veron et al., 2009) based on regional or 
global averages.
    We have additional information regarding climate change impacts and 
predictions for coral reefs readily available in our files, much of 
which is more recent than the literature presented in the petition. 
This information indicates a highly nuanced and variable pattern of 
exposure, susceptibility, resilience, and recovery of coral reefs to 
climate change over regionally and locally different spatial and 
temporal scales, and reflects the high level of uncertainty associated 
with future predictions. The literature underscores the multitude of 
factors contributing to coral response to thermal stress, including 
taxa, geographic location, biomass, previous exposure, frequency, 
intensity, and duration of thermal stress events, gene expression, and 
symbiotic relationships (Pandolfi et al., 2011; Putman et al., 2011; 
Buddemeier et al., 2012; Sridhar et al., 2012; Teneva et al., 2012; van 
Hooidonk and Huber, 2012).
    Vulnerability of a coral species to a threat is a function of 
susceptibility and exposure, considered at the appropriate spatial and 
temporal scales. Susceptibility is primarily a function of biological 
processes and characteristics, and can vary greatly between and within 
coral taxa (i.e., family, genus, or species). Susceptibility depends on 
direct effects of the threat on the species, and it also depends on the 
cumulative (i.e., additive) and interactive (i.e., synergistic or 
antagonistic) effects of multiple threats acting simultaneously on the 
species. For example, ocean warming affects coral colonies through the 
direct effect of bleaching, together with the interactive effect of 
bleaching and disease, because there is evidence that bleaching 
increases disease susceptibility in some species. Vulnerability of a 
coral species to a threat also depends on the proportion of colonies 
that are exposed to the threat. Exposure is primarily a function of 
location and physical processes and characteristics that limit or 
moderate the impact of the threat across the range of the species. 
Information in our files suggests that not all coral species are highly 
vulnerable to the threats associated with global climate change 
(Brainard et al., 2011; van Woesik et al., 2011; Darling et al., 2012; 
van Woesik et al., 2012; Foden et al., 2013). Even species that may be 
moderately vulnerable to ocean warming and acidification can have low 
extinction risk because demographic characteristics such as high 
abundance and/or a broad spatial (e.g., depth) and geographic 
distribution can moderate exposure to the threat which is predicted to 
occur in a spatially non-uniform pattern.
    The petition'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. Likewise 
the petition implies that ocean acidification is a threat to all coral 
species with which the petitioned species may associate. 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 coral species have 
already expanded their range in response to climate change (thus 
decreasing their extinction risk); and that not all coral species are 
seriously affected by ocean acidification. Thus at the broad level of 
coral reefs, the information in the petition and in our files does not 
allow us to conclude that coral reefs generally are at such risk from 
climate change effects to threaten the viability of the petitioned 
species.
    In addition to predicted vulnerabilities based on biological and 
demographic characteristics, we consider empirical information on 
overall trends of live coral cover within the range of the petitioned 
species. No recent, region-wide reports of current overall live coral 
cover are available for the Indo-Pacific as a whole. However, recent 
reports from parts of the region have found current live coral cover to 
be stable or increasing in many areas, while others have experienced 
some decreases. Monitoring data collected annually from 47 sites on the 
GBR from 1995 to 2009 averaged 29 percent live coral cover (Osborne et 
al., 2011). More importantly, this study found no evidence of 
consistent, system-wide decline in coral cover since 1995. Instead, 
fluctuations in coral cover at sub-regional scales (10-100 km), driven 
mostly by changes in fast-growing Acropora species, occurred as a 
result of localized disturbance events and subsequent recovery (Osborne 
et al., 2011). However, another recent study, based on 2,258 surveys of 
214 GBR reefs over 1985-2012, showed declines in live coral cover from 
28 percent to 14 percent, a loss of half of the initial coral cover 
(the majority of which occurred at the end of the study period and 
after the Osborne et al. (2011) study had concluded) (Sweatman et al., 
2011). A study of 317 sites in the Philippines from 1981 to 2010 showed 
live coral cover increased from 29 percent in 1981 to 37 percent in 
2010 (Magdaong et al., 2013). A study of 366 sites from 1977 to 2005 in 
the Indian Ocean documented significant variation in coral cover trends 
over time and space, but overall following the mass 1998 bleaching 
event there was a large decline of 44 percent of the original live 
coral cover followed by partial recovery to 72.6 percent of pre-
disturbance levels (Ateweberhan et al., 2011). A study in Western 
Australia from 2005 to 2009, following a 1998 and 2003 bleaching events 
which left the area with relatively low coral cover, documented 
recovery to 10 percent total live hard coral cover and 5 percent soft 
coral cover in 2005 and 30 percent hard coral cover and 22 percent soft 
coral cover in 2009 (Ceccarelli et al., 2011). Further, a study in the 
Andaman Islands of India following a 2010 bleaching where corals were 
bleached from 74-77 percent documented recovery of live

[[Page 52282]]

coral cover from 13 to 21 percent in two years (Marimuthu et al., 
2012). These recent studies illustrate the dynamic nature of live coral 
cover. It is likely that the overall region-wide live coral cover in 
the Indo-Pacific is declining over the decade to century scales 
(Birkeland 2004; Fenner 2012; Pandolfi et al. 2003; Sale and Szmant 
2012), but with fluctuations on shorter time scales.
    In conclusion, information in our files regarding live coral cover 
confirms that there has been a long-term overall decline in live coral 
cover in the Indo-Pacific (Birkeland 2004; Fenner 2012; Pandolfi et al. 
2003; Sale and Szmant 2012), and that those declines are likely ongoing 
and likely to continue in the future due to a multitude of global and 
local threats at all spatial scales. However, as the above information 
illustrates, live coral cover trends are highly variable both spatially 
and temporally, producing patterns on small scales that may not be 
extrapolated beyond the localized area. Live coral cover trends are 
complex, dynamic, and highly variable across space and time. Thus their 
interpretation requires the appropriate spatiotemporal context, and an 
understanding of the various physical, biological, and ecological 
processes at work within coral communities and coral reef ecosystems. 
The ranges of the petitioned reef fish are expansive and encompass much 
of the variability in environmental conditions discussed above, 
indicating that while overall habitat may have declined, some portions 
of their range may have experienced declines in coral cover while some 
have experienced stability or increasing coral cover over the last few 
decades.
    The petitioner goes on to discuss more specific coral habitat and 
describes the preferred habitat for most of the petitioned species, 
excluding Amphiprion, as ``branching corals, mostly Acropora and 
Pocillopora.'' The petition did not provide information on the extent 
to which Acropora and Pocillopora corals are no longer available as 
preferred habitat within the ranges of the petitioned species, or 
predictions for future distribution or availability of these coral 
genera as a result of climate change impacts. Information in our files 
(and provided in Bonin, 2012) indicates that Acropora and Pocillopora 
species may respond negatively to a bleaching event; however, there is 
high variability in susceptibility to bleaching and acidification among 
them, which is demonstrated in observed responses to bleaching events. 
For example, Bonin (2012) shows the 16 species of Acropora he studied 
being affected to varying degrees by bleaching. A majority of those 
species exhibited moderate bleaching susceptibility (less than 50 
percent of colonies severely bleached or dead). The incidence of severe 
bleaching (more than 50 percent of colony with strong pigmentation 
loss) among species ranged from zero to 62 percent, with an average of 
25 percent among the 16 species. The incidence of unbleached colonies 
(healthy colonies with no visible loss of color) ranged from zero to 46 
percent among species with an average of 20 percent. Mortality among 
the 16 species evaluated ranged from zero to 40 percent, with an 
average of 5.2 percent mortality. His surveys were conducted in two to 
six meters of water in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. In such a narrow 
and shallow depth range within the coral triangle area, we'd expect to 
see severe results from a bleaching event, yet this site still shows 
high variability among the 16 Acropora species evaluated.
    In another study from our files, Foden et al. (2013) developed a 
framework for identifying the species most vulnerable to extinction 
from a range of climate change induced stresses. Their evaluations 
included 797 species of reef building corals, including 165 species of 
Acropora and 17 species of Pocillopora, and incorporated species' 
physiological, ecological, and evolutionary characteristics, in 
conjunction with their predicted climate change exposure. The results 
indicate that just eight of those 165 Acropora species, and four of the 
17 Pocillopora species, have high overall vulnerability to climate 
change. The remaining 157 Acropora and 13 Pocillopora have low overall 
vulnerability, indicating they are the least vulnerable to extinction 
due to climate change stresses within this group. In fact, acroporids 
(which includes the Genus Acropora) were highlighted by the authors as 
one of three coral families that have a mean climate change 
vulnerability score significantly lower than the mean for all corals. 
Of the eight species of Acropora that were rated as highly vulnerable 
to climate change, several have plating or short bushy morphologies and 
all of them occur in very restricted ranges in either the western 
Indian Ocean or in Japan. Thus, these highly vulnerable species are 
unlikely to represent habitat of significance to the petitioned reef 
fish that occur in these waters because the reef fish have expansive 
ranges (beyond the Indian Ocean and/or Japan). Similarly, the four 
Pocillopora species rated as highly vulnerable are also unlikely to 
represent significant habitat for the petitioned species. Specifically, 
two of them are limited to small ranges in the East Pacific, outside 
the ranges of the petitioned reef fish species, one occurs in deep 
water, and the other has a restricted range limited to waters around 
Madagascar, which only represents a small fraction of the expansive 
ranges of the petitioned chromis and plectroglyphidodon species. Other 
information in our files also indicates that Acropora corals are some 
of the fastest to re-grow and recover from disturbance (Adjeroud et 
al., 2009; Diaz-Pulido et al., 2009; Osborne et al., 2011).
    The petition presented site specific studies from bleaching events 
in Okinawa, Japan (Loya et al., 2001) and the Great Barrier Reef 
(Marshall and Baird, 2000) indicating branching Acropora and 
Pocillopora corals were among the most susceptible to bleaching. 
Marshall and Baird (2000) reported a mixed response to bleaching with 
fewer than 10 percent of colonies of Pocillopora damicornis unbleached 
and the majority of Pocillopora species were either severely bleached 
or dead six weeks after a large scale bleaching event in 1998. They 
also observed a mixed response to bleaching among Acropora corals. For 
example, 25 percent of caespitose (tufted) and corymbose (bushy) 
species of Acropora were severely bleached or dead, yet over 60 percent 
of the colonies of these species remained unbleached. They found 
significantly different bleaching responses among sites, depths, and 
taxa. Spatial variation in bleaching impacts may be driven by variation 
between sites in environmental conditions, including differences in 
temperature at a particular site. However, Marshall and Baird (2000) 
noted that the local-scale variation in this study was likely driven by 
ecological factors such as assemblage composition or biological factors 
such as acclimatization, because bleaching was less severe at sites 
with consistently higher temperatures. Site specific studies like these 
present a localized picture, the results of which can be extremely 
variable depending on the environmental and ecological variables 
associated with the study site, and have limited usefulness in 
predicting range-wide impacts to habitat for the petitioned species.
    Foden et al. (2013) provide an overall range-wide perspective that 
incorporates species' physiological, ecological and evolutionary 
characteristics, in conjunction with their predicted climate change 
exposure to identify those coral species most at risk from climate 
change. We find Foden et al.'s (2013) approach to be informative for 
considering the potential

[[Page 52283]]

for range-wide impacts to Acropora and Pocillopora habitat that may 
threaten the continued existence of the petitioned reef fish species 
that commonly associate with these coral species because it provides 
information on a wide range of species within those genera and the 
results are not specific or limited to any particular geographic area. 
Data in our files demonstrates that most Acropora and Pocillopora 
corals have low vulnerability to bleaching due to ocean warming. Thus, 
even though all Acropora and Pocillopora species are likely to be 
negatively affected by coral bleaching to some degree, or in some 
locations depending on environmental variables, the information in the 
petition and in our files suggests the effects overall are likely to be 
low for most of those species and we cannot reasonably infer that there 
may be a risk to the petitioned species because of high mortality of 
these corals.
    Based on the information in the petition and our files, we cannot 
infer that the general information on coral bleaching and acidification 
effects on pomacentrid habitat, in conjunction with the high 
variability in response to climate change, indicates a threat that may 
warrant protection for the petitioned fishes under the ESA. Species-
specific issues related to this threat are discussed in species-
specific sections below.
    The petition also presents scientific studies indicating 
pomacentrid reef fishes show a strong preference for inhabiting live 
coral rather than sub-lethally bleached or dead corals, and pomacentrid 
recruitment on bleached and dead corals declines quickly after a 
bleaching event. However, Bonin et al. (2009) and Coker et al. (2012), 
cited in the petition, show no significant difference in settlement of 
Pomacentrus moluccensis or density of Dascyllus aruanus (respectively) 
on healthy versus sub-lethally bleached corals. These two studies only 
found significantly fewer recruits and lower density on dead corals. As 
noted earlier, not all corals are subject to mortality from bleaching; 
for example, Bonin (2012) found an average of only 5.2 percent 
mortality from bleaching. In addition, the petition argues that 
bleaching reduces available habitat, leading to increased competition 
effects, reduced growth rates, and generally negative fitness 
consequences for pomacentrids. The results of Bonin et al. (2009) and 
Coker et al. (2012) only support this claim for bleaching-induced 
mortality and not bleaching alone. The implications of this for the 
petitioned species would depend on their individual levels of exposure 
and susceptibility to habitat that has experienced bleaching and some 
level of bleaching-induced mortality. This is discussed further for 
each species in the species sections because, as discussed previously, 
exposure and response to threats is variable between species.
    In general, considering the effects of climate change on 
damselfishes and their habitat based on the information in the petition 
and in our files, we acknowledge the growing threat that ocean warming 
and acidification present to coral reef ecosystems. Even though all 
species of Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to be negatively 
affected by climate change to some degree, the information in the 
petition and in our files suggests the effects are likely be low to 
moderate for most species and will be variable both spatially and 
temporally throughout the ranges of the petitioned species, providing 
areas of refuge from the potential effects of habitat disturbance. Thus 
we cannot infer from the general information presented that climate 
change induced habitat loss by itself is a threat that may warrant 
protection for these pomacentrids under the ESA.

Overharvest

    Under Listing Factor B, the petitioner identified four of the seven 
petitioned Indo-Pacific species as potentially threatened by 
overharvest for the marine aquarium fish trade and stated that the 
harvest of corals threatens all of the petitioned species by removing 
their habitat. This section addresses overharvest of corals only. The 
threat of overharvest to the four identified fish species, A. percula, 
C. atripectoralis, C. viridis, and D. albisella, is discussed in the 
relevant species-specific sections below.
    The petition states ``[t]he widespread and growing trade in coral 
reef fish and corals adds to the cumulative stresses that the 
petitioned pomacentrids face from ocean warming and ocean 
acidification.'' The petition provides no further information on the 
threat of harvest of corals as it pertains to the petitioned species. 
Information in our files suggests that coral trade can have significant 
local effects on targeted coral species, but the overall contribution 
of ornamental trade to the extinction risk of 82 species of reef 
building corals was determined to be a threat of low importance 
(Brainard et al., 2011). The petition has presented no information, and 
we have no information in our files, to suggest that the petitioned 
species are particularly dependent on species of coral that are 
targeted for trade. Further, we have no information to suggest that 
this may be an operative threat across all or a significant portion of 
the range of these species. All hard corals are listed in Appendix II 
of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora (CITES), which allows trade but requires findings that 
trade is sustainable. There is no evidence presented in the petition or 
in our files that trade in corals may be significantly impacting the 
available habitat for the petitioned reef fish species. As such, the 
assertion made in the petition is unsupported and no information was 
presented to allow us to infer a possible increased extinction risk for 
any of the petitioned reef fish species due to the harvest of corals.

Adequacy of Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under listing Factor D, the petitioner asserts that the petitioned 
species are warranted for listing under the ESA due to the inadequacy 
of regulatory mechanisms, specifically addressing greenhouse gas 
pollution, coral reef habitat protection, and the marine aquarium 
trade. The petition states that both international and domestic laws 
controlling greenhouse gas emissions are inadequate and/or have failed 
to control emissions: ``As acknowledged by NMFS in its Status Review 
Report of 82 Candidate Coral Species and accompanying Management 
Report, national and international regulatory mechanisms have been 
ineffective in reducing emissions to levels that do not jeopardize 
coral reef habitats.'' Information in our files and from scientific 
literature indeed indicates that greenhouse gas emissions have a 
negative impact to reef building corals (NMFS, 2012). However, beyond 
this generalized global threat to coral reefs, we do not find that the 
petition presents substantial information indicating that the effects 
of greenhouse gas emissions are negatively affecting the petitioned 
species or their habitat such that they may be at an increased risk of 
extinction. In particular, the information in the petition, and in our 
files, does not indicate that the petitioned species may be at risk of 
extinction that is cause for concern due to the loss of coral reef 
habitat or the direct effects of ocean warming and acidification. 
Therefore, inadequate regulatory mechanisms controlling greenhouse gas 
emissions is not considered a factor that may be causing extinction 
risk of concern for the petitioned species.
    With respect to coral reef habitat protection from localized 
impacts, the petition quotes Burke et al. (2011) as stating, ``more 
than sixty per cent of the world's coral reefs are under immediate and 
direct threat from one or more local sources,'' despite international 
and

[[Page 52284]]

domestic efforts to reduce threats to reefs. The petition states ``this 
high level of threat clearly indicates that existing regulatory 
mechanisms are inadequate to protect the coral reefs on which the 
petitioned Pomacentrids depend.'' The petition did not provide an 
explanation of how petitioned species may be threatened by local 
sources of impacts to coral reefs. We therefore conclude that the 
petition does not provide a relevant explanation on how existing 
regulatory mechanisms for coral reef protection are inadequate and 
therefore may be increasing the extinction risk of the petitioned Indo-
Pacific species.
    The petition states that ``United States and international 
regulations are inadequate to protect the petitioned pomacentrids from 
threats from the global marine aquarium trade.'' The petition cites 
Tissot et al. (2010) for evidence of ``weak governance capacity in 
major source countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines; high 
international demand, particularly from the United States . . . and 
inadequate enforcement of the few existing laws, allowing collectors to 
use illegal and harmful collection methods such as sodium cyanide.'' 
Information presented in the petition and in our files does not 
indicate that C. atripectoralis, C. viridis, or D. albisella may be 
harvested at unsustainable levels for the marine aquarium fish trade 
(see species specific sections below); accordingly, we conclude the 
characterization of the risk of harvest to these three petitioned 
species presented in the petition is unsubstantiated. No information 
was presented in the petition related to the harvest of D. reticulatus, 
P. dickii, or P. johnstonianus. Because overharvest for trade has not 
been established as an operative threat that may be impacting 
extinction risk for these six petitioned species, regulatory mechanisms 
addressing this threat are not considered to be a factor influencing 
their extinction risk. However, we are unable to estimate the magnitude 
of impact that the marine aquarium trade may be having on A. percula's 
population, because we have inadequate information to estimate 
population size for this species.
    In summary, we find the petition does not provide substantial 
information to suggest existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate 
and may be causing an extinction risk for six of the petitioned species 
Indo-Pacific species. This listing factor will be addressed more 
specifically for A. percula below.

Other Natural or Manmade Factors

    Under Listing Factor E, the petition states generally that ocean 
acidification and ocean warming, in addition to causing habitat loss, 
``directly threaten the survival of the petitioned species through a 
wide array of adverse impacts that are predicted to lead to negative 
fitness consequences and population declines.'' We acknowledge that the 
potential for physiological impacts as a result of changing 
temperatures and changing CO2 levels is not unique to 
corals; marine species associated with coral reef ecosystems also have 
the potential to be impacted physiologically by rising ocean 
temperatures and increased acidification. Similar to our previous 
discussion on habitat (coral) impacts, considering the likelihood and 
extent of this threat requires an understanding of the petitioned 
species' susceptibility and exposure to the threat considered at the 
appropriate spatial and temporal scales. The petitioner has provided no 
information to indicate that this threat is currently creating an 
extinction risk for the petitioned species in the wild, either through 
impacts to fitness of a significant magnitude or declines in their 
populations. Thus, we have assessed the information provided by the 
petitioner and in our files as it pertains to the potential for future 
impacts to the statuses of the petitioned species. For reasons 
explained below, we are unable to infer that any of these petitioned 
species may face an increased extinction risk due to potential future 
physiological impacts associated with projections of ocean warming and 
ocean acidification.
    The petition states that elevated sea surface temperatures ``can 
influence the physiological condition, developmental rate, growth rate, 
early life history traits, and reproductive performance of coral reef 
fishes, all of which can affect their population dynamics, community 
structure, and geographical distributions.'' The section of the 
petition asserting that ocean warming impacts reproductive success and 
development for the petitioned species relies on references that are 
general in nature and lack species specific information. (i.e., Munday, 
2008; Lo-Yat et al., 2010; Pankhurst and Munday, 2011). Lo-yat et al. 
(2010) examined larval supply of coral reef fishes (including some 
pomacentrid species) and found that, at their study site in French 
Polynesia, warmer El Ni[ntilde]o conditions reduced larval supply 
overall by 51 percent, while cooler La Ni[ntilde]a conditions increased 
larval supply by 249 percent. The authors note, however, that outcomes 
of future climate projections are contradictory when it comes to 
whether or not El Ni[ntilde]o events will become more frequent. In 
addition, they highlight no less than four other studies that also 
examined the effects of El Ni[ntilde]o and La Ni[ntilde]a events on 
reef fish larval supply and present results which contrast with their 
results in French Polynesia, leading the authors to conclude that ``our 
work and the outcomes of these earlier studies suggest that the effect 
of climatic phenomena such as ENSO [El Ni[ntilde]o Southern 
Oscillation] cycles on reef fish assemblages may be species, context, 
and location-specific and therefore extremely difficult to predict.'' 
Munday (2008) and Pankhurst and Munday (2011) provide general summaries 
of reef fish physiology and the potential future impacts of climate 
change. Pankhurst and Munday (2011) summarize their conclusion as 
follows: ``Climate change will, or is already, affecting reproductive 
and early life history events of most fishes. This is occurring at a 
variety of levels and through a range of mechanisms which as our 
understanding develops are emerging as increasingly complex. There is 
also the very strong suspicion that we are substantially under-informed 
to make useful predictions about likely effects beyond general 
assumptions, except for the relatively few species that have received 
the bulk of research attention.'' As stated previously, vulnerability 
to a threat is a combination of susceptibility and exposure. We are 
unable to draw reasonable inferences from this generalized information 
because it identifies the susceptibility of the petitioned species to a 
potential future threat but provides no information on the likely level 
of exposure in the future.
    Other references in the petition do offer species-specific results 
(although not for any petitioned species) showing reduced breeding 
success of Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Donelson et al., 2010) and 
increased mortality rates among juvenile Dascyllus aruanus (Pini et 
al., 2011) in response to increased ocean temperatures that may be 
experienced later this century. Multiple references provided state that 
the effects of temperature changes appear to be species specific 
(Nilsson et al., 2009; Lo-Yat et al., 2010; Johansen and Jones, 2011); 
therefore these results are not easily applied to the petitioned 
species and, due to unknown variation in predicted exposure, are not 
applicable across an expansive range. Therefore, we are unable to draw 
reasonable inferences from these reports that the petitioned action may 
be warranted.
    With regard to ocean warming impacts to respiratory and metabolic

[[Page 52285]]

processes, Nilsson et al. (2009) and Johansen and Jones (2011) compared 
results of exposure to increased temperatures across multiple families 
or genera and species of reef fish. Nilsson et al. (2009) found that 
elevated temperatures (31, 32, or 33 degrees C) reduced aerobic 
capacity 41 to 93 percent for two cardinalfish and three damselfish 
species tested, indicating variation both between families tested and 
among species. Cardinalfish response to increasing temperatures was 
stronger and where cardinalfish lost virtually all capacity for oxygen 
uptake by 33 degrees C, damselfish species retained over half of their 
aerobic scope at this maximum temperature. With temperature increases 
in the future, Nilsson et al. (2009) predicted that thermally sensitive 
species, such as the cardinalfish studied, could decline on low-
latitude reefs but also expand at higher latitudes where water 
temperatures are more favorable, resulting in pronounced range shifts 
towards higher latitudes. Further, Nilsson et al. (2009) described 
damselfish species, such as C. atripectoralis, as more thermally 
tolerant and predicted that range shifts towards higher latitudes may 
happen more gradually for these species.
    Johansen and Jones (2011) tested wild-captured adult fish in a 
laboratory setting, exposing them to two temperature treatments 
representing current average summer temperatures around their habitat 
(29 degrees C) and the predicted average summer temperature after three 
degrees C increase in sea temperature following current climate change 
predictions for the end of this century. They found that increased 
temperature (32 degrees C) had a significant negative effect across all 
performance measures examined (for all species except C. 
atripectoralis, where no significant difference was found in swimming 
ability or metabolic performance), with the magnitude of the effect 
varying greatly among closely related species and genera. The results 
indicate increasing temperatures may impair certain species' ability to 
perform within current habitats (i.e., swimming capacity is reduced 
below prevailing water flow speeds for some species). Similar to 
Nilsson et al. (2009), Johansen and Jones (2011) suggest that the 
ecological impacts could include a reduction in species abundance and a 
shift in distribution ranges, such that some species are forced into 
different habitats where water flow is weaker to accommodate their 
reduced swimming capacity or into higher latitudes where performance is 
retained.
    The information provided indicates both the potential for declines 
of some species in low-latitude reefs, as well as the potential for 
expansion for these species in higher latitudes or more thermally 
favorable areas. Both studies suggest species that are specialized to a 
narrow thermal environment, especially those optimized for colder 
temperatures, are likely to be the most sensitive to projected changes 
in temperature. We have no information that suggests the petitioned 
species are specialized to narrow thermal environments or optimized to 
colder temperatures. To the contrary, the petitioned species are widely 
distributed in geographic range and/or depth, which suggests they are 
less likely to be among the most sensitive to projected changes in 
temperature.
    Many of the authors of the physiology studies discussed above 
acknowledge that acclimation, developmental plasticity, and genetic 
adaptation may or may not alleviate some physical and physiological 
limitations, although capacity for acclimation or adaptation is unknown 
and was not factored into the experiments. Donelson et al. (2011), 
however, did examine trans-generational plasticity and found rapid 
acclimation for the damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus when both 
parents and offspring were reared throughout their lives at elevated 
temperature. As noted earlier in this finding, adaptation and 
acclimatization has been demonstrated in some species of coral 
(Brainard et al. 2011) and the results from Donelson et al.'s (2011), 
while not specific to the petitioned species, indicates that some 
tropical marine fish species are likely to have the capacity for 
acclimation and adaptation to temperature increases at timescales 
exceeding the rate of climate change.
    The petition also states ``ocean acidification impairs the sensory 
capacity and behavior of larval clownfish and damselfish'' but only 
provides species-specific information for A. percula which is discussed 
below. Importantly, studies cited in the petition (e.g., Ferrari et 
al., 2011) demonstrate that there is significant variation in response 
to increased CO2, leading to acidification, among species, 
even among four congeneric pomacentrid species sharing the same habitat 
and ecology in Australia. Additionally, the studies cited by the 
petition and in our files emphasize that there is significant 
individual variation in the response to artificially elevated 
CO2. Results from a study by Munday et al. (2012) on 
selective mortality associated with variation in CO2 
tolerance show that half of the juvenile Pomacentrus wardi in a high 
CO2 treatment of 703 [mu]atm (pH 7.98) were unaffected and 
exhibited the same behaviors as fish in the control treatment of 425 
[mu]atm CO2 (pH 8.16) when presented with the odor of a 
predator in lab experiments. Fish categorized as both affected and 
unaffected based on their response to predator odor in the lab, as well 
as control fish, were then released in the wild and monitored for 
mortality over 70 hours. The unaffected individuals from the high 
CO2 treatment had 49 percent survival, not significantly 
different from the control fish, which had 44 percent survival. The 
affected individuals in the high CO2 treatment had 
significantly lower survival at 32 percent. As noted by Munday et al. 
(2012), these results demonstrate that rapid selection of 
CO2 tolerant phenotypes can occur in nature.
    Miller et al. (2012) also report that trans-generational 
acclimation can mediate the physiological impacts of ocean 
acidification on reef fish. Their results show ocean temperature and 
acidity conditions projected for the end of the century cause an 
increase in metabolic rate and decreases in length, weight, condition, 
and survival of juvenile anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus), but all of 
those effects were absent or reversed when parents also experience high 
CO2 concentrations.
    In summary, we acknowledge the potential for physiological and 
behavioral impacts to the marine species due to ocean warming and 
acidification levels that may occur later this century. However, we 
find the petition did not present substantial information to indicate 
this may increase extinction risk for the petitioned species. 
References provided in the petition acknowledge that there are 
limitations associated with applying results from laboratory studies to 
the complex natural environment where impacts will be experienced 
gradually over the next century at various magnitudes in a non-uniform 
spatial pattern. Lab experiments presented do not reflect the 
conditions the petitioned species will experience in nature; instead of 
experiencing changes in levels of ocean warming and acidification 
predicted for the end of the century within a single generation, 
species in nature are likely to experience gradual increases over many 
generations. The few multi-generational studies that have been 
completed show evidence of rapid trans-generational acclimation and 
individual variation that could lead to rapid selection for tolerant 
phenotypes. These are likely to be influential factors in how changing

[[Page 52286]]

environmental conditions are reflected in future populations. The 
petitioned species (with the exception of A. percula for which no 
population information was available) have high estimated abundances 
and most are distributed across the entire Indo-Pacific region. While 
there is much uncertainty regarding the magnitude and spatial patterns 
of these environmental conditions that may occur sometime in the 
future, they will not occur uniformly or as rapidly as they were 
experienced in laboratory studies. Therefore, we cannot draw reasonable 
inferences about the extinction risk of the petitioned species from 
this information. For these reasons, information in the petition and in 
our files does not constitute substantial information that listing may 
be warranted based on the potential future physiological impacts of 
ocean warming and acidification. Species-specific information is 
addressed below.

Species Specific Threat Information

A. percula

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    Although the petition broadly states that the petitioned species 
are habitat specialists that depend on live corals, A. percula is the 
exception. It is described as a habitat specialist due to its symbiotic 
association with three species of anemone: Heteractis crispa, 
Heteractis magnifica, and Stichodactyla gigantea (Ollerton et al., 
2007). As habitat specialists, the symbiotic relationship between A. 
percula and their hosts makes this species susceptible to threats that 
are likely to impact their host anemones; accordingly, we must consider 
the susceptibility and vulnerability of their host species. The 
petition states that A. percula is threatened by ``bleaching and 
subsequent loss of anemone habitat resulting from ocean warming'' and 
cites multiple references as evidence that ocean warming has led to 
anemone bleaching, which can lead to reductions in anemone abundance 
and size as well as reduce the density, reproduction, and recruitment 
of anemone fish. We acknowledge that information presented indicates 
bleaching events may impact host anemone species by causing reductions 
in abundance of anemones and/or a reduction in size of bleached 
anemones (Hattori, 2002; Saenz-Agudelo et al., 2011; Hill and Scott, 
2012). In particular, the petition presents information indicating that 
bleaching events have been shown to negatively impact H. crispa, one of 
the three host anemone species for A. percula (Hattori, 2002).
    In addition, the geographic range of A. percula is more restricted 
than the other petitioned species and occurs largely in the Coral 
Triangle area. A hot spot of ocean warming occurs in the equatorial 
western Pacific where regional warming is higher than overall warming 
in the Indo-Pacific, exposing coral reef ecosystems, including 
anemones, in this area to a higher risk of warming-induced bleaching. 
The hot spot overlaps the Coral Triangle and a large part of A. 
percula's range (Couce et al. 2013; Lough 2012; Teneva et al. 2012; van 
Hooidonk et al. 2013b).
Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific or 
Educational Purposes
    The petitioner claims that A. percula is being overharvested for 
the marine aquarium trade. Rhyne et al. (2012) indicate that in 2005 
the species complex of A. ocellaris/percula was the fifth most commonly 
imported marine aquarium species into the United States, with more than 
400,000 individuals in that year. These numbers are an accumulation of 
data from 39 countries where the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka 
are listed as the top three exporting countries, but we do not have 
data on the exact amount of exports of this species complex from each 
country. We do know that the Philippines and Indonesia alone accounted 
for 86.6% of all reef fish individuals imported to the U.S. in 2005 
(Rhyne et al., 2012). It is of note that the Philippines and Indonesia 
are outside the reported range of A. percula, but inside the range of 
A. ocellaris, so import estimates from these countries are not relevant 
to the petition's statements regarding harvest or trade of A. percula. 
We also know from Rhyne et al. (2012) that within the range of A. 
percula, at least 255 different species of reef fish, totaling just 
over 200,000 individuals, were exported to the U.S in 2005. Data in 
Rhyne et al. (2012) for the countries within A. percula's range do not 
suggest that total import numbers were skewed heavily toward one or a 
few species. Given the above information we can only infer that total 
A. percula imports to the U.S. were less than 200,000 individuals. As 
noted in the species description above, A. percula does not occur 
within U.S. Pacific possessions and we therefore have no information in 
our files regarding estimated global population size. Additional 
references in the petition regarding trade of A. percula indicate an 
increased consumer interest in A. percula following the release of the 
``Finding Nemo,'' computer-animated film in 2003, but provide no 
additional information about the overharvest threats to this species in 
the wild (Osterhoudt, 2004; Prosek, 2010). In the absence of 
information on abundance, we are unable to determine how the harvest of 
up to 200,000 individuals annually may impact the status of A. percula.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. However, references provided by the 
petitioner question the sustainability of management practices 
associated with the global aquarium trade indicating that in many cases 
the status of targeted species is largely unknown (Jones et al. 2008; 
Rhyne et al. 2012). With no additional information regarding the 
abundance of A. percula, we are unable to determine if current 
management regimes are sufficient to prevent overharvest. Because we 
have determined that substantial information has been presented to 
indicate that listing may be warranted for A. percula due to potential 
impacts from habitat disturbance, we will need to further evaluate 
whether regulatory mechanisms may be inadequate to address these 
threats.
    In summary, we find that the petition presents substantial 
information that A. percula may be warranted for listing due to species 
specific threats identified under listing Factor A. We will be seeking 
additional information on all threats to A. percula and conducting a 
full status review for this species (see below), at which time we will 
fully analyze the level of extinction risk posed by all of the 
identified threats, both individually and combined.

C. atripectoralis

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    In the species section, the petition states that C. atripectoralis, 
``is closely associated with branching corals, especially Acropora and 
Pocillopora, for shelter, reproduction, and recruitment,'' citing 
Wilson et al. (2008a) and Lewis (1998). The petition also states that 
declines in C. atripectoralis have resulted from coral loss due to this 
close association (Lewis, 1998; Wilson et al., 2006). With regard to 
these references, we consider whether the species-specific information 
on declines resulting from changes to coral habitat may indicate the 
possibility of increased

[[Page 52287]]

extinction risk for C. atripectoralis as a species.
    Lewis (1998) examined impacts to the C. atripectoralis/viridis 
species complex after coral bommies (coral heads) were physically 
destroyed by a hammer. Lewis (1998) found that numbers of the C. 
atripectoralis/viridis species complex varied after disturbance of 
coral bommies, but overall these species showed a significant decline 
post disturbance. At the same time, several of the undisturbed (or 
control) bommies showed large increases of the species complex after 
the disturbance that could not be explained by recruitment, and Lewis 
(1998) noted that immigration likely occurred from disturbed locations. 
Coral loss in the Lewis (1998) study was described by the authors as 
comparable to small scale anthropogenic disturbances like anchor damage 
and destructive fishing. Results from this study indicate that C. 
atripectoralis shows a preference for structurally intact coral habitat 
over damaged habitat. However, we find this conclusion unhelpful for 
extrapolating the likely impacts to this species due to climate change 
affecting corals since the cause of disturbance is dissimilar to 
impacts associated with bleaching events, which generally leave the 
structural integrity of corals intact for at least a period of time, 
and do not always result in coral mortality. The results from this 
study suggest that small habitat disturbance may result in small area 
declines or shifts to areas where habitat conditions are more 
favorable. As discussed in the general impacts section above, future 
climate change impacts to coral reef habitat will be highly variable 
within the range of C. atripectoralis and the available information 
suggests that bleaching impacts to Acropora and Pocillopora corals thus 
far, and in the foreseeable future, will be low to moderate on average, 
with a subset of species showing higher vulnerability.
    Wilson et al. (2006) is a meta-analysis of species-specific results 
from 17 independent studies (including Lewis (1998)) and presents mean 
values for change in fish abundance for 55 species of reef fish related 
to change in coral cover due to various types of disturbances 
calculated from four or more locations. The authors note that C. 
atripectoralis did not show consistency in response, though overall 
decline averaged about 60 percent of coral loss. This review paper does 
not provide any further detail regarding which or how many of the 17 
studies included C. atripectoralis and therefore in how many cases 
there was decline, the magnitude of decline, the sampling timeframe, or 
the cause of coral cover loss in relation to this species. As such, we 
reviewed the studies on which this analysis was based. We found C. 
atripectoralis was included in five studies showing variable results in 
response to coral loss. These results range from an observed increase 
over time after the 1998 mass bleaching event in the Seychelles 
(Spalding and Jarvis, 2002), to showing no impact in response to coral 
cover loss of 16-59 percent due to a crown of thorns starfish outbreak 
(Pratchett, 2001) or coral loss due to a tropical cyclone (Cheal et 
al., 2002). In Lewis (1998), addressed above, the C. atripectoralis/C. 
viridis complex declined 38 percent in response to a 34 percent decline 
in coral cover due to destruction with a mallet, which means the fish 
decline was 112 percent of coral cover decline in this case which 
heavily influences the average overall reported in Wilson et al. (2006) 
(although as noted above, some of the reduced abundance on damaged 
bommies was immigration to nearby control sites, not mortality). Again, 
we find the cause of disturbance in this study dissimilar to impacts 
associated with bleaching events, which generally leave the structural 
integrity of corals intact for at least a period of time, and do not 
always result in coral mortality. Given that the majority of studies 
showed increases or no effect to C. atripectoralis, we cannot 
reasonably infer from this study that this species may be at increased 
risk of extinction from this threat.
    Overall, the petition establishes that this species prefers 
branching corals as adults and branching and plate corals as juveniles, 
but can be found with other coral species in its territory (Wilson et 
al., 2008b). Pratchett (2001) observed C. atripectoralis to commonly 
inhabit dead corals as well. The information also shows positive and 
neutral responses to habitat disturbance at the local scale. In order 
to evaluate the significance of the evidence presented, we consider 
whether the conditions that led to, or may lead to, declines may be 
experienced throughout all or a significant portion of the species 
range. Based on the information in the petition and in our files, we 
cannot reasonably infer that C. atripectoralis is likely to be 
experiencing the type or magnitude of coral loss exhibited in the 
studies discussed above throughout all or a significant portion of its 
expansive geographic range. Coral reefs are naturally dynamic 
environments that experience regular cycles of disturbance and recovery 
on a local scale from a range of impacts including storms, bleaching 
events, predator outbreaks, or others. These results for C. 
atripectoralis are representative of this natural cycle on a local 
scale. While these examples of localized decline due to habitat 
disturbance show some negative effects on C. atripectoralis in at least 
one location on the Great Barrier Reef, we do not believe these 
negative effects are large enough to impact the status of the global 
population of C. atripectoralis because best available data indicate it 
likely numbers in the hundreds of millions and is distributed across 
the entire Indo-Pacific region. The evidence of mostly neutral or 
positive responses to habitat disturbance does not allow us to 
reasonably infer that C. atripectoralis may be at increased extinction 
risk in the future either, even when considering the potential for 
increased habitat disturbances due to climate change.
    We find that substantial information has not been presented to 
indicate a concern for the extinction risk of this species due to the 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.
Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific or 
Educational Purposes
    The petitioner asserts that analyses of the aquarium fisheries in 
Hawaii, the Philippines, and Florida indicate that damselfish, 
including C. atripectoralis, may face threats from overharvest. The 
only reference provided in the petition with information specific to C. 
atripectoralis (Nanola et al., 2010) indicates its density is lower in 
one region of the Philippines compared to its densities in other 
regions of the Philippines. The authors note that there are reports of 
intense fishing and habitat degradation in the area with lower C. 
atripectoralis density; however, no causal relationship was 
investigated to determine why the density of the species was lower in 
one region versus others. No additional information was provided in 
this reference with regard to the harvest of C. atripectoralis.
    The petitioner also cited Rhyne et al. (2012) which state C. 
viridis is the most commonly imported marine aquarium species into the 
U.S., accounting for nine percent of imports and more than 900,000 
individuals each year. Figures reported for C. viridis actually 
represent a complex of three species, including C. atripectoralis. No 
further explanation of what proportions those three species make up of 
the total, the magnitude of harvest in relation to global population 
size, or how harvest for the marine aquarium trade affects extinction 
risk for any of the three species in the species complex was provided. 
As noted in the species description above,

[[Page 52288]]

we estimate the current global abundance of the C. atripectoralis/C. 
viridis species complex to be in the hundreds of millions. The import 
of 900,000 individuals per year represents a very small percentage of 
that overall global population estimate. Notably, a third species of 
Chromis is also represented in the import numbers so the proportion of 
C. atripectoralis harvested in relation to its overall abundance may be 
even smaller.
    The petitioners do not provide information that the level of 
harvest of this species may be unsustainable. They have simply 
identified a potential threat and provided no other demographic 
information, leaving no basis upon which to reasonably infer that 
harvest may be increasing the extinction risk of this species. 
Accordingly, we cannot reasonably infer from these reports that this 
species may be facing an extinction risk across all or a significant 
portion of its range due to overharvest.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for C. atripectoralis.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    For C. atripectoralis, the petitioner discusses two studies to 
suggest that increased ocean temperatures will reduce aerobic capacity 
for this species. One of the references provided with species-specific 
information reports C. atripectoralis showed no significant changes in 
consumption of oxygen at a resting rate or maximum oxygen uptake during 
swimming, but displayed a significant fall in aerobic scope from 300 
(with a standard deviation of 28 percent) at 29 degrees C to 178 (with 
a standard deviation of 55 percent) at 33 degrees C; the authors also 
describe C. atripectoralis as a thermally tolerant species (Nilsson et 
al., 2009). These authors suggest that thermally tolerant species such 
as C. atripectoralis may experience gradual range shifts overtime. 
Johansen and Jones (2011) showed no significant difference for C. 
atripectoralis in swimming or metabolic performance in response to a 
three degrees C increase in water temperature (29 to 32 degrees). We 
acknowledge the potential for increased ocean temperatures that may 
occur later this century to have physiological impacts on the 
petitioned species, however the information presented in the petition 
for C. atripectoralis shows that the potential negative effect by 
itself, combined with the thermal tolerance demonstrated, does not 
allow us to infer an extinction risk due to the potential future 
physiological impacts of climate change that is cause for concern.

C. viridis

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    The petition argues that C. viridis is threatened by habitat loss 
and degradation of coral reef habitat due to temperature-induced mass 
bleaching events and ocean acidification. The petitioner describes C. 
viridis as a coral habitat specialist and states that, ``many studies 
have reported C. viridis' close association with a narrow set of 
branching coral species as juveniles and adults,'' citing multiple 
references (Allen, 1991; Booth, 2002; Lecchini et al., 2005; Ben-Tzvi 
et al., 2008; Froukh and Kochzius, 2008). Although it is not apparent 
from the references provided that this species relies on a ``narrow set 
of branching coral species,'' we do acknowledge that this species is 
commonly observed associated with branching corals.
    The petition cites several references to demonstrate that C. 
viridis is negatively impacted by coral habitat loss or degradation, 
which are discussed below. The petitioner asserts that C. viridis has 
``been shown to decline sharply following the loss of live coral 
habitat from bleaching and other disturbances,'' citing Nilsson et al. 
(2009). However, the Nilsson et al. (2009) study examined how elevated 
temperature impacts respiratory scope for several species of 
pomacentrids (not including C. viridis) and does not examine impacts of 
habitat loss on any species. Rather the study cites two other papers 
referenced in the petition for habitat loss (Wilson et al., 2006 and 
Pratchett et al., 2008), neither of which include any information on C. 
viridis. As discussed in the previous section, C. viridis was reported 
as part of a species complex with C. atripectoralis in Lewis (1998) and 
this study provides no additional information to suggest that 
extinction risk is heightened for either of these species.
    The petition states, ``[i]n a survey of a portion of the GBR that 
experienced bleaching during the 1997-98 mass bleaching event, Booth 
and Beretta (2002) found that numbers of C. viridis collapsed after the 
bleaching event. . . .'' Booth and Beretta (2002) examined changes in 
recruitment and density of reef fish after a coral bleaching event in 
One Tree Island lagoon in Australia and found that the density of three 
different species of pomacentrids dropped at bleached sites. The 
authors note that the numbers of several species, including C. viridis, 
may have been seriously reduced as a result of the bleaching event; 
however, they were unable to quantitatively assess density changes for 
this species because survey methods were unsuitable for assessing 
species that had a highly patchy distribution at the study site.
    Overall, the petition establishes that this species is commonly 
observed associated with branching corals and the work of Ben-Tzvi et 
al. (2008) shows preference for settlement and recruitment of juveniles 
to Acropora species. The information also provides two examples of 
negative responses to habitat disturbance at the local scale (Booth and 
Beretta 2002; Lewis 1998). In order to evaluate the significance of the 
evidence of a negative response to a threat that has been presented, we 
consider whether the conditions that led to declines may be experienced 
throughout all or a significant portion of the species range. Based on 
the information in the petition and in our files, we do not believe 
that C. viridis is likely to be experiencing the type or magnitude of 
coral loss exhibited in Lewis (1998) or Booth and Beretta (2002) 
throughout all or a significant portion of its expansive geographic 
range, nor is it likely to in the future. Coral reefs are naturally 
dynamic environments that experience regular cycles of disturbance and 
recovery on a local scale from a range of impacts including storms, 
bleaching events, predator outbreaks, or other threats. These results 
for C. viridis are representative of this natural cycle on a local 
scale. While these examples of localized decline due to habitat 
disturbance show clear negative effects on C. viridis at two locations 
on the Great Barrier Reef, we have no information to suggest that these 
localized effects are large enough to impact the status of the entire 
species because the best available data indicate it likely numbers in 
the hundreds of millions and is distributed across the entire Indo-
Pacific region. As summarized above, information in our files regarding 
live coral cover confirms that there has been a long-term overall 
decline in live coral cover in the Indo-

[[Page 52289]]

Pacific, and that those declines are likely ongoing and likely to 
continue in the future due to a multitude of global and local threats 
at all spatial scales. However, live coral cover trends are complex, 
dynamic, and highly variable across space and time. Even though all 
species of Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to be negatively 
affected by climate change to some degree, the information in the 
petition and in our files suggests low to moderate effects for most 
species that will be variable both spatially and temporally throughout 
the range of C. viridis, providing areas of refuge from the potential 
effects of habitat disturbance. We find that substantial information 
has not been presented to indicate a concern for the extinction risk of 
this species at the population level due to the destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.
Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific or 
Educational Purposes
    The petitioner cited Rhyne et al. (2012) which states C. viridis is 
the most commonly imported marine aquarium species into the U.S., 
accounting for nine percent of imports and more than 900,000 
individuals each year. However, this study is based on one year of 
information collected from import invoices in the U.S. and does not 
report annual averages as characterized by the petition. Nevertheless, 
we have no information to indicate the figures cited do not represent a 
typical year. In addition, figures reported for C. viridis represent a 
complex of three species (which also includes the petitioned species C. 
atripectoralis), not C. viridis alone, indicating that the numbers for 
C. viridis are actually lower than those presented in the petition. No 
further explanation of the magnitude of harvest in relation to global 
population size of C. viridis or how harvest for the marine aquarium 
trade affects its extinction risk was provided.
    As noted in the species description above, we estimate the global 
abundance of the C. atripectoralis and C. viridis species complex to be 
in the hundreds of millions. The annual import of a maximum of 900,000 
represents a very small percentage of this global population estimate. 
Notably, this percent may be lower as a third species of Chromis is 
also represented in the harvest numbers.
    The petitioners do not provide information that the level of 
harvest of this species may be unsustainable. They have simply 
identified a potential threat and given no other demographic 
information, leaving no basis upon which to infer that harvest may be 
increasing the extinction risk of this species. Accordingly, we cannot 
infer from this information that this species may be facing increased 
extinction risk across all or a significant portion of its range due to 
overharvest.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for C. viridis.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
    No species-specific information was provided regarding the effects 
of increased ocean warming or acidification on C. viridis. The 
evaluation of the general information provided in the petition above 
regarding ocean acidification and warming applies here. While we 
acknowledge the potential for C. viridis to experience physiological 
impacts due to levels of ocean warming and/or acidification that may 
occur later this century, we find that the petition does not present 
substantial information indicating this species may be warranted for 
listing due to these factors affecting its extinction risk.

D. albisella

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    The petition claims that D. albisella is threatened by habitat loss 
and degradation of coral reef habitat due to temperature-induced mass 
bleaching events and ocean acidification, specifically arguing that D. 
albisella is dependent on live branching Pocillopora species for larval 
settlement and juvenile habitat. The petition cites Allen (1991), Booth 
(1992), and Randall (1985) to describe the habitat characteristics for 
D. albisella. Additional information in our files provides more detail 
with respect to D. albisella's habitat use, as discussed below. The 
petitioner cites DeMartini et al. (2010) to support the claim that D. 
albisella juveniles are obligately associated with branching 
Pocillopora corals. However, DeMartini et al. (2010) actually describe 
D. albisella's habitat requirements as obligately associated with 
rugose corals, which describes the species' need for structure during 
the recruitment stage, not a constraint to a particular taxa of corals. 
The study also showed that rugose corals within the study area ranged 
from low to high susceptibility to bleaching, similar to the coral 
response variation discussed above.
    The petitioner provides no abundance or density information for 
this species, however our internal files indicate that D. albisella is 
a commonly observed species at multiple depths throughout its range, 
associating with multiple habitat types. In shallow waters (less than 
15 meters), it was ranked first (out of 113 taxa) in mean numerical 
density over seven years of surveys and second in mean biomass surveyed 
over seven years at one site, and second (out of 109 taxa) in density 
and fifth in biomass at another site (DeMartini et al., 2002). In a 
depth range of 30 to 40 meters, it was ranked third out of 35 species 
of fish in terms of how many survey stations at which it was observed 
and third in terms of mean number observed per station (Parrish and 
Boland, 2004). The authors note that all available data indicate the 30 
to 40 meter habitats of northwestern Hawaiian island banks are 
substantially different from shallower reef habitats, like those in 
DeMartini et al. (2010), however they still observed D. albisella as a 
common species. In deeper waters (50 to 73 meters), it was ranked first 
in terms of the number of black coral trees in which it was observed, 
and ninth for mean fishes per tree out of 40 taxa (Boland and Parrish, 
2005). In addition, Chave and Munday (1994) report D. albisella as 
common down to 84 meters depth on or above various substrates.
    Additional information readily available in our files includes a 
study that documented D. albisella juvenile recruitment to experimental 
wire mesh coils in depths of four to eight meters on open sand flats 
(Schroeder, 1985). Results of this study indicate that recruitment is 
not dependent upon live branching Pocillopora corals, as stated in the 
petition, as we believe these results show that the species is only 
dependent on three-dimensional structure, which the wire mesh coils 
represent. Thus, the information in our files does not support the 
petitioner's claim that D. albisella is dependent on live branching 
Pocillopora for larval settlement and juvenile habitat or other aspects 
of survival. It does, however, support the fact the D. albisella is 
commonly observed among branching corals or other rugose habitat 
structures over a broad depth range.

[[Page 52290]]

    The petition does not provide any specific information indicating 
coral habitat loss due to temperature-induced mass bleaching events and 
ocean acidification (or any other cause) has affected the status of the 
species. As such, we cannot infer that loss or degradation of coral 
reef habitat is a threat to the species to the extent it may warrant 
protection under the ESA.

Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific or 
Educational Purposes

    The petitioner argues that analyses of the aquarium fisheries in 
Hawaii, the Philippines, and Florida indicate that damselfish, 
including D. albisella, may face threats from overharvest. The only 
reference provided with information specific to D. albisella (Stevenson 
et al., 2011) reports information from fisher surveys indicating D. 
albisella has a high `electivity index' which is a measure of fisher's 
preference for fish caught. No actual catch information was provided 
for D. albisella. No information was presented on the magnitude of 
harvest in relation to global population size or how harvest for the 
marine aquarium trade affects extinction risk for these species. As 
noted above in the species description, the mean global population 
estimate for D. albisella is 11,493,000. We found no additional 
information in our files indicating that overharvest may be an 
operative threat acting on this species and affecting its extinction 
risk.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for D. albisella.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    No species-specific information was provided regarding the effects 
of increased ocean warming or acidification on D. albisella. The 
evaluation of the general information provided in the petition above 
regarding ocean acidification and warming applies here. While we 
acknowledge the potential for D. albisella to experience physiological 
impacts due to levels of ocean warming and/or acidification that may 
occur later this century, we find that the petition does not present 
substantial information indicating this species may be warranted for 
listing due to these factors affecting its extinction risk.

D. reticulatus

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    As noted above, the petition states that ``the petitioned 
pomacentrid reef fish are habitat specialists that directly depend on 
live corals for survival, including shelter, reproduction, recruitment, 
and food.'' In the species section, the petitioner provides more 
details on this species and states that D. reticulatus is ``closely 
associated with branching corals as juveniles and adults,'' citing 
Allen (1991), Lewis (1998), Randall (2005), and Wilson et al. (2008a). 
We acknowledge that this species is commonly associated with branching 
corals based on the information provided in the petition. Wilson et al. 
(2008) established that adults show a preference for branching and 
plate corals while avoiding soft corals.
    The petition also states that declines in D. reticulatus have been 
documented as a result of coral loss and cites Lewis (1998). Lewis 
found that numbers of D. reticulatus declined after disturbance of 
coral bommies (coral heads). Again, we find the cause of disturbance in 
this study (e.g., by mallet) dissimilar to impacts associated with 
bleaching events, which generally leave the structural integrity of 
corals intact for at least a period of time, and do not always result 
in coral mortality. Dascyllus reticulatus is also included in the 
results reported in Wilson et al. (2006). As discussed above, Wilson et 
al. (2006) is a meta-analysis of 17 independent studies (including 
Lewis, 1998) and present mean values for changes in fish abundance for 
55 species of reef fish related to changes in coral cover due to 
various types of disturbance calculated from four or more locations. 
Dascyllus reticulatus showed average declines larger than the declines 
in coral but was included in the group of species that did not show 
consistent responses to coral loss in all cases. This review paper does 
not provide any further detail regarding which of the 17 studies 
included D. reticulatus and therefore in how many cases there was 
decline, the magnitude of decline, the sampling timeframe, or the cause 
of coral cover loss in relation to this species. We found D. 
reticulatus was included in four studies conducted at three sites on 
the Great Barrier Reef. The results for D. reticulatus show variable 
responses to coral loss ranging from a slight increase at one site and 
slight decrease at another one year after a tropical cyclone (Cheal et 
al., 2002), to a 70 percent decline one year after a crown of thorns 
starfish outbreak that resulted in 16-59 percent coral cover loss 
(Pratchett, 2001), to exhibiting dramatic declines of near 100 percent 
after experimental habitat disturbance consisting of breaking up all 
hard corals on the patch reef, resulting in essentially 100 percent 
coral loss (Syms and Jones, 2000).
    In order to evaluate the significance of the evidence presented, we 
consider whether the conditions that led to declines may be experienced 
throughout all or a significant portion of the species range. Based on 
the information in the petition and in our files, we do not believe 
that D. reticulatus is likely to be experiencing the type or magnitude 
of coral loss exhibited in the studies discussed above throughout all 
or a significant portion of its range, nor is it likely to in the 
future. Coral reefs are naturally dynamic environments that experience 
regular cycles of disturbance and recovery on a local scale from a 
range of impacts including storms, bleaching events, predator 
outbreaks, or others. These results for D. reticulatus are 
representative of this natural cycle on a local scale. While these 
examples of localized decline due to habitat disturbance show some 
negative effects on D. reticulatus at three locations on the Great 
Barrier Reef, we have no information to suggest that these localized 
effects are large enough to impact the status of the entire species 
because best available data indicate it likely numbers in the billions 
and is distributed across the entire Indo-Pacific region. As summarized 
above, information in our files regarding live coral cover confirms 
that there has been a long-term overall decline in live coral cover in 
the Indo-Pacific, and that those declines are likely ongoing and likely 
to continue in the future due to a multitude of global and local 
threats at all spatial scales. However, live coral cover trends are 
complex, dynamic, and highly variable across space and time. Even 
though all species of Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to be 
negatively affected by climate change to some degree, the information 
in the petition and in our files suggests low to moderate effects for 
most species that will be variable both spatially and temporally 
throughout the range of D. reticulatus, providing areas of refuge from 
potential future threats that are not spatially uniform. We find that 
substantial information has not been

[[Page 52291]]

presented to indicate a concern for the extinction risk of this species 
at the population level due to the destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for D. reticulatus.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    For D. reticulatus, the petitioner states increased temperature 
will negatively affect aerobic performance and swimming ability, citing 
Johansen and Jones (2011). In this study, D. reticulatus adults exposed 
to a high temperature (32 degrees C) environment in a laboratory 
setting displayed significantly reduced swimming and metabolic 
performance (Johansen and Jones, 2011). In addition, there is some 
evidence of adaptation/acclimation to future environmental conditions 
in pomacentrid species. Dascyllus reticulatus has high estimated 
abundance and is distributed across the entire Indo-Pacific region; 
though there is much uncertainty regarding the magnitude and spatial 
patterns of these environmental conditions that may occur sometime in 
the future, they will not occur uniformly or as rapidly as they were 
experienced in laboratory studies. Therefore, we cannot draw reasonable 
inferences about the extinction risk of D. reticulatus from this 
information.

P. dickii

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    As noted above, the petition states that ``the petitioned 
pomacentrid reef fish are habitat specialists that directly depend on 
live corals for survival, including shelter, reproduction, recruitment, 
and food.'' More specifically in the species section, the petitioner 
claims that many sources report a ``strong association'' of P. dickii 
adults with live branching Acropora and Pocillopora corals, citing 
Jones et al. (2006) and Emslie et al. (2012). We acknowledge that this 
species is commonly observed associated with branching corals, based on 
the information provided in the petition, and relies on coral branches 
for algal farming and nest sites. As such, the species may therefore be 
impacted by changes to this habitat type.
    The petition references studies by Wilson et al. (2008b) and the 
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS, 2012) to describe impacts 
of habitat loss, reporting that both studies found P. dickii declined 
significantly following the loss of Acropora coral cover in Fiji and 
loss of hard coral cover due to storm damage at Hoskyn's Reef on the 
Great Barrier Reef, respectively. Plectroglyphidodon dickii is also 
included in just one of the studies considered in the Wilson et al. 
(2006) meta-analysis. Lindahl et al. (2001) found a significant decline 
of approximately 68 percent in P. dickii after the 1998 mass bleaching 
event in Tanzania in response to an 88 percent coral loss. In order to 
evaluate the significance of the evidence presented, we consider 
whether the conditions that led to declines may be experienced 
throughout all or a significant portion of the species range. Based on 
the information in the petition and in our files, we do not believe 
that P. dickii is likely to be experiencing the type or magnitude of 
coral loss exhibited in the studies discussed above throughout all or a 
significant portion of its expansive geographic range, nor is it likely 
to in the future. Coral reefs are naturally dynamic environments that 
experience regular cycles of disturbance and recovery on a local scale 
from a range of impacts including storms, bleaching events, predator 
outbreaks, or others. These results for P. dickii are representative of 
this natural cycle on a local scale. While these examples of localized 
decline due to habitat disturbance show clear negative effects on 
assemblages of P. dickii at one location on the Great Barrier Reef and 
one in Fiji, we do not believe these negative effects are large enough 
to impact the status of P. dickii because the best available data 
indicate it likely numbers in the billions and is distributed across 
the entire Indo-Pacific region. As summarized above, information in our 
files regarding live coral cover does not dispute that there has been a 
long-term overall decline in live coral cover in the Indo-Pacific, and 
that those declines are likely ongoing and likely to continue in the 
future due to a multitude of global and local threats at all spatial 
scales. However, live coral cover trends are complex, dynamic, and 
highly variable across space and time. Even though all species of 
Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to be negatively affected by 
climate change to some degree, the information in the petition and in 
our files only suggests effects are likely be low to moderate for most 
species and will be variable both spatially and temporally throughout 
the range of P. dickii, providing areas of refuge from habitat 
disturbances that are not spatially uniform. We find that substantial 
information has not been presented to indicate a concern for the 
extinction risk of this species at the population level due to the 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for P. dickii.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
    No species-specific information was provided regarding the effects 
of increased ocean warming or acidification on P. dickii. The 
evaluation of the general information provided in the petition above 
regarding ocean acidification and warming applies here. While we 
acknowledge the potential for P. dickii to experience physiological 
impacts due to levels of ocean warming and/or acidification that may 
occur later this century, we find that the petition does not present 
substantial information indicating this species may be warranted for 
listing due to these factors affecting its extinction risk.

P. johnstonianus

Factor A: Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Habitat or Range
    The petitioner argues that P. johnstonianus is threatened by coral 
habitat loss or degradation due to the species' dependence on live 
coral for shelter, food, and reproduction. Specifically, the petition 
states this species is ``considered highly dependent on live coral for 
shelter, food, and reproduction,'' citing Cole et al. (2008) and Emslie 
et al. (2012). They also cite Allen (1991) and Randall (2005)

[[Page 52292]]

generally with regard to use of Acropora and Pocillopora corals as 
habitat. We acknowledge that this species is commonly observed 
associated with branching corals and is likely a corallivore based on 
the information provided in the petition. As such, the species may 
therefore be impacted by changes to this habitat type.
    The petitioner reports P. johnstonianus to be an obligate 
corallivore, listing Acropora and Montipora species as ``major'' 
dietary items and Pocillopora and Porites species as ``moderate'' 
dietary items based on Cole et al. (2008). In Cole et al. (2008), 
corallivores are defined as obligate when more than 80 percent of their 
diet is centered on coral. Cole et al. (2008) base their assessment of 
obligate corallivory on two studies they cite. The petition also cites 
Randall (2005) that the species feeds mainly on coral polyps.
    The four coral genera that are reported to be included in P. 
johnstonianus' diet are comprised of more than 300 individual species. 
As discussed throughout this finding, thermal tolerance varies widely 
between even closely related coral species and depends on a multitude 
of factors including taxa, geographic location, biomass, previous 
exposure, frequency, intensity, and duration of thermal stress events, 
gene expression, and symbiotic relationships. The petition did not 
provide further detail on, or any climate change susceptibility 
information for preferred dietary items. According to Foden et al. 
(2013), 85 percent of the 308 species they assessed within those four 
genera have low vulnerability to climate change threats. In the absence 
of more detailed information regarding the diet requirements of P. 
johnstonianus, we defer back to our assessment of information in our 
files which indicates that even though all species of branching coral 
are likely to be negatively affected by coral bleaching to some degree, 
the information in the petition and in our files suggests the effects 
are likely be low or moderate for most branching coral species. As 
such, we cannot infer that climate change impacts to P. johnstonianus' 
preferred food items may be cause for concern for increased extinction 
risk of this species.
    The petition references studies by Wilson et al. (2008b) and the 
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS, 2012) to describe impacts 
of habitat loss, reporting that both studies found P. johnstonianus 
declined significantly following the loss of Acropora coral cover in 
Fiji and loss of hard coral cover due to storm damage at Hoskyn's Reef 
on the Great Barrier Reef, respectively. Two additional references 
(Wilson et al., 2006; Pratchett et al., 2008) are meta-analyses of 
multiple studies showing changes in coral reef fish abundance 
concurrent with coral loss over variable periods of time due to various 
types of disturbance (Wilson et al., 2006) or specifically a mass 
bleaching event (Pratchett et al., 2008). Pratchett et al. (2008) 
combine species specific results from six independent studies that 
collectively report on 116 species of reef fish, while Wilson et al. 
(2006) combine species specific results from 17 independent studies 
that collectively report on 55 species of reef fish. We found only one 
study (cited in both meta-analyses) that includes information for P. 
johnstonianus. Spalding and Jarvis (2002) found P. johnstonianus 
declined significantly at all three Seychelles survey sites one year 
after the 1998 mass bleaching event. Declines ranged from 74 percent 
with 84 percent coral loss, to 75 percent with 95 percent coral loss, 
to 38 percent with 65 percent coral loss at the three study sites.
    As noted with the other species, localized decline in response to 
habitat disturbance is not unexpected for any species. In order to 
evaluate the significance of the evidence presented, we consider 
whether the conditions that led to declines may impact the species 
throughout all or a significant portion of the species range. Based on 
the information in the petition and in our files, we have no basis to 
infer that P. johnstonianus, an apparently abundant and widely 
distributed species, is experiencing the type or magnitude of coral 
loss exhibited in the studies discussed such that it is threatened with 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Coral 
reefs are naturally dynamic environments that experience regular cycles 
of disturbance and recovery on the local scale from a range of impacts 
including storms, bleaching events, predator outbreaks, or others. 
These results for P. johnstonianus are representative of this natural 
cycle on a local scale. While these examples of localized decline due 
to habitat disturbance show clear negative effects on assemblages of P. 
johnstonianus at three locations (one site on the Great Barrier Reef, 
Fiji and the Seychelles), there is no basis to infer that these 
negative effects are large enough to impact the status of P. 
johnstonianus. The best available data indicate that the species likely 
numbers in the billions and is distributed across the entire Indo-
Pacific region.
    As summarized above, information in our files regarding live coral 
cover does not dispute that there has been a long-term overall decline 
in live coral cover in the Indo-Pacific, and that those declines are 
likely ongoing and likely to continue in the future due to a multitude 
of global and local threats at all spatial scales. However, live coral 
cover trends are complex, dynamic, and highly variable across space and 
time. Even though all species of Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to 
be negatively affected by climate change to some degree, the 
information in the petition and in our files suggests the effects are 
likely be low to moderate for most species and will be variable both 
spatially and temporally throughout the range of P. johnstonianus, 
providing areas of refuge from the potential effects of habitat 
disturbance that is not spatially uniform. We find that substantial 
information has not been presented to indicate a concern for the 
extinction risk of this species at the population level due to the 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.
Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There was no discussion in the petition of regulatory mechanisms 
specific to this species. The evaluation of the general information 
provided in the petition regarding inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms 
above applies here. As such, substantial information has not been 
provided to indicate that inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms may be 
contributing to increased extinction risk for P. johnstonianus.
Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
    No species-specific information was provided regarding the effects 
of increased ocean warming or acidification on P. johnstonianus. The 
evaluation of the general information provided in the petition above 
regarding ocean acidification and warming applies here. While we 
acknowledge the potential for P. johnstonianus to experience 
physiological impacts due to levels of ocean warming and/or 
acidification that may occur later this century, we find that the 
petition does not present substantial information indicating this 
species may be warranted for listing due to these factors affecting its 
extinction risk.

Interaction and Summation of Section 4(a)(1) Factors

    Finally, we have considered whether there are cumulative or 
synergistic effects to any of the petitioned reef fish species from the 
combined impacts of threats identified in the petition, such

[[Page 52293]]

that even if each threat individually does not result in population-
level effects that may warrant protection for these fishes under the 
ESA, those cumulative or synergistic effects may be significant and 
meet our 90-day finding standard.
    For A. percula, we find the petition presents substantial 
information to indicate this species may be warranted for listing. As 
such, we will conduct a status review and include a detailed assessment 
of the potential for synergistic effects of the Section 4(a)(1) factors 
on this species. We request information on any potential interactions 
through the public comment process (see below).
    For the other six petitioned species, we have specifically 
considered whether two or more of the threats assessed above (loss of 
coral reef habitat due to climate change, harm to essential functions 
from ocean acidification and ocean warming, overharvest for the 
aquarium trade, and inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms) are 
cumulatively or synergistically likely to interact and result in 
significant impacts to the species, either now or in the foreseeable 
future. We have no information to suggest that the identified threats 
to the species will work synergistically, thereby enhancing impacts to 
the six petitioned species populations. With regard to cumulative 
impacts, we must consider whether the information provided would 
suggest that the additive impacts from the various threats indicate 
that the species may warrant protection under the ESA. Because of the 
expansive ranges of the petitioned species and the non-uniform nature 
of the potential future threats we do not expect the petitioned species 
to be exposed to all threats simultaneously throughout all or a 
significant portion of their ranges. Additionally, in places where they 
experience multiple threats simultaneously, e.g., coral bleaching 
impacts combined with harvest, impacts are likely to be localized. The 
lack of any evidence of declining populations is true for all six 
species.
    In summary, we cannot reasonably infer that studies referenced in 
the petition showing localized declines or generalized threats may 
describe an extinction risk of these widely-distributed and abundant 
species. Overall, the petitioner presented insufficient information to 
suggest the global population of any of these six petitioned species is 
so depressed or declining due to any of the threats identified in the 
petition such that it may require ESA listing. Based on the lack of 
population-level impacts identified in the petition and the information 
in our files, we cannot reasonably infer that the combined effects of 
these threats will occur with such frequency, intensity, or geographic 
scope as to present an extinction risk to these six petitioned species.
    Accordingly, we find that for the Hawaiian dascyllus (Dascyllus 
albisella), blue-eyed damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus), 
black-axil chromis (Chromis atripectoralis), blue-green damselfish 
(Chromis viridis), reticulated damselfish (Dascyllus reticulatus), and 
blackbar devil or Dick's damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon dickii), the 
petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that ESA-listing may be warranted under any of 
the five section 4(a)(1) factors, alone or in combination.

Petition Finding

    After reviewing the information contained in the petition, as well 
as information readily available in our files, and based on the above 
analysis, we find that the petition presents substantial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for the orange 
clownfish (Amphiprion percula). We will conduct a status review for 
this species to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. We 
find that the petition fails to present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted for the remaining six petitioned Indo-Pacific species: the 
Hawaiian dascyllus (Dascyllus albisella), reticulated damselfish 
(Dascyllus reticulatus), blue-eyed damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon 
johnstonianus), black-axil chromis (Chromis atripectoralis), blue-green 
damselfish (Chromis viridis), and blackbar devil or Dick's damselfish 
(Plectroglyphidodon dickii).

Information Solicited

    To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are 
soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to A. 
percula from any interested party. Specifically, we are soliciting 
information, including unpublished information, in the following areas: 
(1) Historical and current distribution and abundance of A. percula 
throughout its range; (2) historical and current population trends for 
A. percula; (3) life history and habitat requirements of A. percula; 
(4) genetics and population structure information (including 
morphology, ecology, behavior, etc) for populations of A. percula; (5) 
past, current, and future threats to A. percula, including any current 
or planned activities that may adversely impact the species; (6) 
ongoing or planned efforts to protect and restore A. percula and its 
habitat; and (7) management, regulatory, and enforcement information 
pertaining to A. percula. 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 (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: August 28, 2014.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-20955 Filed 9-2-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P