Thursday, September 29, 2011

Protecting Corals and Island Nations: conservation group and the President of Palau both speak out

The Center for Biological Diversity is blowing its environmental horn not only to draw attention to its own actions but those of other nations concerned with the fate of marine ecosystems and the forces that impact them worldwide:

Settlement Requires Protecting 82 Corals
"On Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and the [U.S.] National Marine Fisheries Service reached an important agreement that will move 82 species of coral closer to protection. The agreement, following a 2009 petition and two notices of intent to sue by the Center, requires the Service to make decisions on protecting 82 U.S. corals -- including the mountainous star coral, blue rice coral and several Acropora corals -- under the Endangered Species Act by April 15, 2012. The Center has already earned protection for elkhorn (another Acorpora species) and staghorn corals."

As reported in the Houston Chronicle,
"Unless we protect them right now, coral reefs will be lost within decades, and our grandchildren will never see these colorful underwater forests teeming with life," Miyoko Sakashita, the director of the organization's oceans program, said in a statement.

Currently, only reef-building staghorn and elkhorn corals are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Of the species under review, 75 are found in the Pacific. Nine exist in Hawaii waters, including ringed rice coral, which sometimes has a purple hue but is other times rust orange or brown. It's a candidate for listing because it's only found in the Hawaiian islands. This makes the species vulnerable to being wiped out if there's a heat wave or an invasive species infiltrates its habitat. Protection under the Endangered Species Act could put fishing, dumping, dredging, offshore oil development and other activities under stricter regulatory scrutiny.

Palau Speaks Out Against Climate Change
"The Pacific island nation of Palau has announced it will urgently seek an "advisory opinion" from the United Nations on whether some polluting countries have a legal responsibility to ensure that their greenhouse gases don't harm other countries. Under international law, Palau points out, states are required to take all necessary measures to stop their activities from harming other states. Despite mounting evidence that the climate crisis is only deepening, the U.S. has failed to make significant strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and, in fact, some in Congress are pushing to weaken the Clean Air Act rather than harness it to do what's needed to reduce greenhouse pollution and avert the worst effects of the global climate crisis."

Palau President Johnson Toribiong told the General Assembly’s annual general debate that, along with the Marshall Islands, Palau will call on the 193-member Assembly to urgently seek an advisory opinion – which would be non-binding – from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court. Palau is one of several Pacific island countries that have repeatedly spoken out at the General Assembly about the impact of climate change, with rising sea levels resulting from the emissions of greenhouse gases threatening to swamp their islands.

"Article 194(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that States shall take all measures necessary to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction or control do not spread and do not cause damage by pollution to other States. It is time we determine what the international rule of law means in the context of climate change,” the president was quoted as saying in the UN News Centre.

In today's difficult economic climate, we see the impact of globalization; that our economic health can not be isolated or immune from the financial conditions being experienced by other nations. The same is certainly true for the environment - we're all in this together.

Watch a video of President Toribiong speaking to the General Assembly.

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