Posted by: reefrescue | September 3, 2009

Staghorn Coral Critical Habitat Debate


  • May 2006 elkhorn and staghorn corals are added to the Endangered Species List by NOAA/NMFS
  • February 2008 NOAA/NMFS proposes designating Florida waters from the shoreline to 90 ft. deep (where suitable hard bottom/reef exists) from Dry Tortugas to Palm Beach/Martin county line as Critical Habitat (CH) necessary for the conservation of the species. Public comment deadline May 2008.
  • Town of Palm Beach comments to NOAA/NMFS that none of Palm Beach County should be included since staghorn coral colonies in PBC are not significant, the reef structure in PBC is not suitable habitat and the Critical Habitat Designation will result in increased cost of compliance for beach renourishment projects.
  • November 2008 NOAA/NMFS issues final critical habitat designation dropping more than half of PBC and moves northern boundary south to Boynton Beach Inlet, excluding the reefs offshore of the Town of Palm Beach.
  • December 2008 PBC Reef Rescue files formal petition with federal government to revise CH by moving northern boundary to Lake Worth Inlet. PBCRR provides documentation the reefs offshore of the Town of Palm Beach contain the features essential for the survival of the species as described by NMFS and documents the presence of staghorn coral on PBC reefs north of the Boynton Beach Inlet and offshore of the Town of Palm Beach (note: ESA requires CH to include areas where species exists at the time of listing).
  • July 2009 NOAA/NMFS finds “… the [PBCRR] petition presents substantial scientific information that the [critical habitat designation] revision may be warranted.” NOAA/NMFS invites public comment until August 26, 2009.
  • Town of Palm Beach again comments CHD will interfere with beach projects. The neighboring city of Lake Worth issues a proclamation supporting PBCRR petition. Letters of support also sent by individuals, PBC Environmental Resource Mgmt., FDEP, the national and local Sierra Clubs and the Florida Coalition for Preservation.
  • NOAA/NMFS has till December 09 to decide.

Palm Beach Post: Imperiled coral enjoys renaissance – but Palm Beach, activists spar over protections

Useful Links:

Link to NOAA Acropora (elkhorn and staghorn) coral webpage:

 Link to NOAA CFR accepting Reef Rescue petition for review:

 Link to webpage:

Once there paste RIN 0648–XP68 into search to view comments (not all have been posted)


  1. What the Town of Palm Beach fails to understand is that the coral reefs off their shoreline are already protected from impacts caused by beach renourishment projects. Each project permit issued has safeguards to protect the resource from the dredges, turbidity and siltation. What are they afraid of? Maybe with federal ESA protection there may actually be enforcement of permit conditions.

  2. […] For background on the staghorn coral debate see the Reef Rescue September 3rd Coral Reef Blog. […]

  3. […] History of Palm Beach staghorn debate Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Divers continue to pressure Palm Beach over staghorn coral habitat protectionWhose reef is it anyway?Staghorn Coral News Update 26.509905 -80.002441 […]

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