Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Alex Sablan expressed the Chamber's opposition to the listing of 66 reef-building coral species under the U.S. Endangered Species act, or ESA.
In a letter to Lance Smith, regulatory branch chief of the Protected Resources Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Pacific Islands Regional Office in Honolulu, Sablan listed a number of concerns over the proposal that would place an ESA listing of species under the Act and have negative impacts on businesses and livelihoods in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“Our island economy depends on tourism. Our Chamber understands the critical role that healthy oceans and thriving coral reefs play in both our island ecology and in sustaining our tourism economy,” Sablan said. “However, we feel that the most critical threats currently facing our corals are threats from climate change (e.g., ocean acidification, ocean warming and coral bleaching), which are best addressed through mechanisms other than the Endangered Species Act.”
The Chamber says an ESA listing for the 66 species of coral will have a pronounced economic impact on a number of in-water projects that are necessary for the islands' economy, such as the maintenance of our shipping channels and maintenance and improvement of the islands' harbors.
There are also concerns about the science itself used to support ESA listing of the corals. Sablan also feels there are very few, in fact one, individuals that have the knowledge needed to identify precisely the species of the corals, and there are no labs for out-of-water laboratory analysis of the specimens that would necessitate damage and removal of the coral.
Implementation of an ESA-required species identification program would be impractical, prohibitively expensive and would have a high likelihood of species misidentification.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1959 and incorporated in 1976, is the largest private business organization in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Chamber works to promote and protect business, economic and civic interests, and the general health and welfare of our islands. (SCC)