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NCCOS Project

Identifying Priority Areas for Implementation of ESA Coral Recovery Actions in the Indo-Pacific Region

Region(s) of Study: Waterbodies / Pacific Ocean
This project began in July 2022 and will be completed in December 2023.

In 2014, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed 15 Indo-Pacific reef-building coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under this legislation, NMFS must develop and implement a recovery plan to improve the status of these coral species. NCCOS will support these recovery planning efforts by analyzing spatial information and compiling partner input about these listed corals to identify potential priority areas for future restoration efforts in the Indo-Pacific region.

Why We Care
In 2014, the NOAA NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) listed 15 Indo-Pacific reef-building coral species as threatened under the ESA (79 FR 53851). Specifically, these 15 listed species include: Acropora globiceps, A. jacquelineae, A. lokani, A. pharaonis, A. retusa, A. rudis, A. speciosa, A. tenella, Anacropora spinosa, Euphyllia paradivisa, Isopora crateriformis, Montipora australiensis, Pavona diffluens, Porites napopora, and Seriatopora aculeata.

For species listed under the ESA, NMFS PIRO must develop and implement a recovery plan (ESA Section 4(f)(1)) if such a plan will benefit the conservation of the species. The purpose of the recovery plan is to provide a roadmap for species’ recovery, with the goal of managing threats and improving their status to the point at which protections under the ESA are no longer needed. PIRO is currently developing a single ecosystem-based recovery plan for all 15 ESA-listed Indo-Pacific corals, which range from the Red Sea to French Polynesia (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Map showing distribution of the 15 ESA-listed corals in the Indo-Pacific region.

Figure 1. Map showing distribution of the 15 ESA-listed corals in the Indo-Pacific region. Map Credit: O’Connor, R., NOAA NMFS, April 26, 2021. Data Source: Veron J.E.N., Stafford-Smith M.G., Turak E. and DeVantier L.M. (2016). Corals of the World. Accessed June 24, 2022, version 0.01. http://www.coralsoftheworld.org/

What We Are Doing
To develop this recovery plan, PIRO needs to compile baseline spatial information relevant to the 15 coral species, and engage with partners across the Indo-Pacific region to identify key recovery actions and spatial priorities. However, PIRO does not have the in-house geospatial expertise to meet these informational and analytical needs. In response, NCCOS is working with PIRO to help fill these knowledge gaps by:

    1. Developing an online web map that includes relevant and readily available spatial information for the 15 ESA-listed coral species, and
    2. Analyzing these spatial data and conducting participatory mapping online to identify potential locations for future implementation of recovery actions.

Deliverables from this effort include the following products:

    1. Online web map with relevant, readily available spatial data for the recovery planning process.
    2. Spatial data layers depicting the feedback and priorities of key Indo-Pacific partners.
    3. A brief written report describing NCCOS’s methods and key results from this work.

NCCOS will also help train PIRO staff on the use and limitations of the resulting spatial layers. The final products will be completed in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024 and released in coordination with PIRO’s draft recovery plan (targeted to be released for public comment in 2023).

Benefits of Our Work
Benefits of this work include:

    1. Directly supporting PIRO’s mandate to conserve and protect endangered species and their habitats under the Endangered Species Act,
    2. Fulfilling NCCOS’s overarching mission to provide high-quality science to support direct, applied marine management efforts, and
    3. Helping to guide coral restoration and management efforts in the Indo-Pacific region for years to come.

This work was funded by NOAA PIRO and leverages in-kind contributions by NCCOS. It will also be conducted in partnership with a wide range of national and international organizations, including government agencies, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and other key groups.

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