Spineless Wonders: How Listing Marine Invertebrates and Their Larvae Challenges the US Endangered Species Act
Ryan P. Kelly
University of Washington - School of Marine and Environmental Affairs; Stanford University - Center for Ocean Solutions
September 13, 2010
Penn State Environmental Law Review, 2010
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently determined that 82 species of corals may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This decision highlights a disconnect between the ESA and the biology of many species to which it applies. In particular, marine invertebrates – ocean-dwelling species without a backbone – are an uneasy fit for the Act’s terms, largely as a result of their complex life cycles that can involve swimming larval stages. These species and their larvae challenge the federal agencies to fulfill the protective mandate of the ESA while minimizing disruption to the wide range of economic and social activities that the coastal oceans sponsor. Recently-listed marine invertebrates, and those that may warrant protection in the future, are potentially potent weapons for challenging a range of government activities along the coasts, from land-use decisions to pollution permits, that could adversely impact the species themselves or their habitats. In this article, I outline the conflicts that these species represent and suggest ways to mitigate these conflicts using the provisions of the existing law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: Endangered Species, Marine, Ocean, Larvae, Invertebrates
JEL Classification: K32
Date posted: September 14, 2010
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