[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 248 (Thursday, December 30, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 74378-74380]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-28335]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 224

[Docket No. 211202-0250]
RTID 0648-XR115

Endangered and Threatened Species; Removal of Siderastrea glynni 
From the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, NMFS, are issuing a final rule to remove a coral, 
Siderastrea glynni, from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered 
Species. Recently obtained genetic and morphological information 
demonstrates that S. glynni does not meet the statutory definition of a 
species, and therefore does not qualify for listing under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Following public comment and peer review 
of the proposed rule and supporting scientific information, this final 
rule implements the changes to the listing for S. glynni.

DATES: This final rule is effective on January 31, 2022.

Protected Resources, [email protected], (301) 427-8442.



    On July 15, 2013, WildEarth Guardians petitioned us to list 81 
marine species, including Siderastrea glynni, as threatened or 
endangered under the ESA and to designate critical habitat. On October 
25, 2013, we found that the petition presented substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing three species of foreign corals, 
including S. glynni, may be warranted, and initiated a Status Review 
(78 FR 63941).
    The Status Review (Meadows 2014) used the best available scientific 
and commercial data to consider the status of and extinction risk to 
each of the three species. The Status Review noted genetic similarities 
between S. glynni (occurring in the eastern Pacific) and the Caribbean 
coral species Siderastrea siderea but ultimately concluded that S. 
glynni was a valid and unique species. Based on the lack of known 
populations in the wild, existence of only a small captive population 
in a single location, low growth rate and genetic diversity, and 
potential increased threats from El Ni[ntilde]o, climate change, 
disease, and habitat degradation should it be reintroduced to Panama, 
extinction risk for this species was assessed to be high. Informed by 
the Status Review and the best available scientific and commercial 
data, NMFS published a final rule to list the species as endangered 
under the ESA on October 7, 2015, and the listing became effective on 
November 6, 2015 (80 FR 60560).
    On April 7, 2020, we announced a 5-year review (85 FR 19456) for 3 
foreign coral species including S. glynni. The 5-year review was 
completed on September 16, 2020 (NMFS 2020) and is available at: 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/3-foreign-corals-5-year-review. To complete the review, we collected, evaluated, and 
incorporated all information on the species that had become available 
since October 2015, the date of the final listing rule, including newly 
obtained genetic and morphological information relating to the taxonomy 
of S. glynni. This newly obtained information and the 5-year review 
inform the conclusions in this final rule.

Proposed Rule

    Under section 4(c)(2) of the ESA, the Secretary shall conduct, at 
least once every 5 years, a review of a listed species and consider, 
among other things, whether a species' listing status should be 
changed. Pursuant to implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.11(e), a 
species shall be delisted if the Secretary of Commerce finds that, 
after conducting a status review based on the best scientific and 
commercial data available:
    (1) The species is extinct;
    (2) The species does not meet the definition of an endangered 
species or a threatened species; or
    (3) The listed entity does not meet the statutory definition of a 
    Informed by the conclusions of the 5-year review (NMFS 2020) and 
our interpretation of the best available scientific and commercial 
data, on May 4, 2021, we issued a proposed rule (86 FR 23657) to remove 
S. glynni from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species 
because it does not meet the statutory definition of a species. The 
proposed rule included the following finding on the identity of the 
    The discovery of S. glynni occurred in 1992 at Urab[aacute] Island, 
Panama Gulf, where five live colonies of Siderastrea

[[Page 74379]]

sp. were found, one of which was collected and designated as the 
holotype for the new species (Budd and Guzm[aacute]n 1994). The 
remaining four colonies of S. glynni were subsequently transplanted to 
aquaria at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Naos Island, 
Panama, and despite extensive search efforts, no other colonies have 
been found in the area (Glynn et al. 2016). The presence of the species 
in the eastern Pacific was noteworthy because the other extant 
Siderastrea species were only known to occur in the western Pacific and 
the tropical Atlantic (Glynn et al. 2016). Additionally, no fossil 
evidence exists for Siderastrea occurring in the eastern Pacific over 
the last 5 million years (LaJeunesse et al. 2016).
    As reported in the Status Review, a study by Forsman et al. (2005) 
found Siderastrea glynni to be genetically very similar to the 
Caribbean coral species Siderastrea siderea. The study provided two 
possible explanations for these results: (1) That S. siderea and S. 
glynni are the same species and that S. glynni may have recently passed 
through or been carried across the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean 
side, or (2) that S. glynni evolved from S. siderea, likely about 2 to 
2.3 million years ago during a period of high sea level when the 
Isthmus of Panama may have been breached, allowing inter-basin transfer 
of species' ancestors. The Status Review concluded that S. glynni was a 
valid and unique species.
    The 5-year review (NMFS 2020) synthesizes significant new 
information regarding the taxonomic classification of S. glynni that 
has become available since the species was listed as endangered. 
LaJeunesse et al. (2016) found S. glynni to host endosymbionts 
Symbiodinium trenchii and Symbiodinium goreaui, both of which occur in 
S. siderea in the Atlantic. (Based on recent taxonomic revisions to the 
family Symbiodiniaceae, these two endosymbionts are now identified as 
Durusdinium trenchii and Cladocopium goreaui, respectively (LaJeunesse 
et al. 2017)). In fact, the study by LaJeunesse et al. (2016) provided 
the first record of both of these endosymbionts in the eastern Pacific. 
A comparison of the single multilocus genotype of D. trenchii found in 
all five S. glynni colonies to other D. trenchii genotypes from several 
regions around the world provide evidence that the D. trenchii genotype 
from the eastern Pacific originated from the Greater Caribbean. The D. 
trenchii genotype found in the S. glynni colonies was an exact match to 
the D. trenchii genotype of a S. siderea colony in Curacao, indicating 
that the presence of D. trenchii in the eastern Pacific is almost 
certainly a result of an introduction from the Atlantic (LaJeunesse et 
al. 2016). Furthermore, the genotype of D. trenchii recovered from S. 
glynni was found to be genetically distinct from other genotypes of 
closely related endosymbionts of family Symbiodiniaceae living in co-
occurring eastern Pacific corals of the genus Pocillopora and is 
therefore atypical of the region (LaJeunesse et al. 2016). More 
recently, the closely related endosymbiont in the eastern Pacific was 
identified as a new species (Durusdinium glynni) distinct from D. 
trenchii, further supporting their differentiation (Wham et al. 2017). 
LaJeunesse et al. (2016) conclude that S. glynni is likely to be S. 
siderea introduced from the Atlantic.
    Glynn et al. (2016) discuss several lines of evidence further 
supporting the synonymy of S. glynni and S. siderea. First, the authors 
discuss the location and timing of the introduction of S. siderea to 
the site where S. glynni was discovered. In the early 1980s, blocks of 
S. siderea skeletons were transplanted from the Caribbean side of 
Panama to a reef at Urab[aacute] Island in the eastern Pacific as part 
of a comparative study of bioerosion (Kleemann 1990). After a period of 
several months, regenerating patches of S. siderea on the blocks were 
apparent; several fragments from these blocks were redeposited on the 
Urab[aacute] patch reef (the same site where S. glynni was discovered) 
in 1982 and were not retrieved (Glynn et al. 2016). Using the initial 
size (approximately 1 cm diameter) and expected growth rate (5.2 mm per 
year over a 10-year period) of the introduced S. siderea fragments, a 
10 cm spherical colony would be expected after 10 years (Glynn et al. 
2016). The five colonies found in 1992 measured between 7 and 10 cm in 
diameter, supporting the timeline of introduction (Budd and 
Guzm[aacute]n 1994).
    Glynn et al. (2016) also provide morphological evidence for the 
proposed synonymy. Despite observed variability in micro-skeletal 
traits among S. siderea, S. radians, and the type specimen of S. 
glynni, a single-factor multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) 
showed no significant differences with respect to all of the examined 
traits across the three species (F3,17 = 2.2937, p = 0.1146) (Glynn et 
al. 2016). There are, however, morphological differences between the S. 
glynni specimens and S. siderea as initially described by Budd and 
Guzm[aacute]n (1994), including growth form (S. glynni was found 
unattached while S. siderea is typically attached) as well as corallite 
wall structure, which was not quantified in the analysis by Glynn et 
al. (2016). The authors suggest that as the oceanic conditions in the 
Gulf of Panama are quite different from those in the Caribbean, certain 
skeletal features of the Pacific colonies could have been 
environmentally influenced, leading Budd and Guzm[aacute]n to declare 
the discovered colonies a new species of Siderastrea (Glynn et al. 
    Based on this substantial evidence, Glynn et al. (2016) conclude 
that the live fragments of S. siderea deposited by Kleeman in 1982 are 
the same that were found by Guzm[aacute]n in 1992, and therefore, that 
S. glynni should be considered a junior synonym of S. siderea. After 
reviewing the best available information, we agree that S. glynni is a 
synonym of S. siderea and not a separate taxonomic species or 
subspecies. It cannot qualify as a distinct population segment (DPS) 
under the statutory definition of a species because DPSs can be 
identified only for vertebrate fish or wildlife. Therefore, S. glynni 
does not meet the statutory definition of a species under the ESA.

Public Comment

    Beginning on May 4, 2021, we solicited comments during a 60-day 
public comment period from all interested parties (86 FR 23657). We 
received one comment requesting that, given the observed variability in 
morphology (including growth form and corallite wall structure) and 
micro-skeletal traits, we provide a more thorough rationale for our 
conclusion that the eastern Pacific population does not constitute a 
subspecies of S. siderea.
    Response: Based on our review of the best available information, we 
conclude that S. glynni is a junior synonym of S. siderea, and we found 
no indication in the available literature that the eastern Pacific 
population is a subspecies of S. siderea. Glynn et al. (2016) explain 
that the morphological differences between the colonies of S. glynni 
and S. siderea, including the eastern Pacific population's thin septa, 
porous or absent columella, and other weakly formed skeletal features, 
may be the result of differing environmental conditions between the 
eastern Pacific and tropical Atlantic, including the following: Carbon 
dioxide concentrations, aragonite saturation state, nutrient levels, 
water depth, shading, and upwelling cycles (Glynn et al. 2016). 
Scleractinian corals are known to exhibit phenotypic plasticity (i.e., 
environment-induced changes in morphology), and therefore phylogenetic 
relationships are often

[[Page 74380]]

clarified by the use of molecular tools (Todd 2008, Budd et al. 2010). 
There is strong evidence for the synonymy of S. glynni and S. siderea 
based on genetic analyses of the corals and their endosymbionts by 
Forsman et al. (2005) and LaJeunesse et al. (2016), respectively. 
Through comparison of ribosomal DNA sequences of the two corals, S. 
glynni was found to share identical sequence types with S. siderea 
(Forsman et al. 2005), and molecular analysis of endosymbionts hosted 
by S. glynni provides evidence that these colonies originated from the 
Atlantic (LaJeunesse et al. 2016), as discussed in the proposed rule 
and above. Therefore, despite morphological differences between S. 
glynni and S. siderea, there is no evidence that the former is a 
subspecies of the latter. The best available scientific information 
supports our conclusion that S. glynni is an introduced population of 
S. siderea from the tropical western Atlantic and is therefore not a 
distinct subspecies of S. siderea.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    We evaluated whether any pertinent scientific or commercial 
information has become available since publication of the proposed 
rule. We reviewed the best available scientific and commercial 
information, including the information in the peer reviews of the 
proposed rule (86 FR 23657; May 4, 2021) and public comments. Based on 
this information, we have made no changes in this final rule from the 
proposed rule.

Final Determination and Effects of Determination

    As proposed on May 4, 2021 (86 FR 23657), with this final rule we 
remove S. glynni from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered 
Species because the best available data indicate that the listed entity 
is synonymous with S. siderea and does not meet the statutory 
definition of a species. As of the effective date, the protections of 
the ESA will no longer apply to S. glynni. In addition, because S. 
siderea is not listed as an endangered species or threatened species 
under the ESA, our delisting of S. glynni has no effect on S. siderea.
    Under section 4(g) of the ESA and per the joint NMFS-U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Guidance (2008, updated 
in 2018), post-delisting monitoring is required for species delisted 
due to biological recovery, but not for species delisted for other 
reasons. Therefore, there is no need for a post-delisting monitoring 
plan for S. glynni.

References Cited

    The complete citations for the references used in this document can 
be obtained by contacting NMFS (See FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Information Quality Act and Peer Review

    In December 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued 
a Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review establishing 
minimum peer review standards, a transparent process for public 
disclosure of peer review planning, and opportunities for public 
participation. The OMB Peer Review Bulletin, implemented under the 
Information Quality Act (Pub. L. 106-554), is intended to enhance the 
quality and credibility of the Federal government's scientific 
information, and applies to influential or highly influential 
scientific information disseminated on or after June 16, 2005.
    To satisfy our requirements under the OMB Peer Review Bulletin, the 
proposed rule was subject to peer review in accordance with the 
Bulletin. A peer review plan was posted on the NOAA peer review agenda 
and can be found at the following website: https://www.noaa.gov/organization/information-technology/information-quality-peer-review-id423. The agency did not receive public comments on the plan. Our 
synthesis and assessment of scientific information supporting this 
proposed action was peer reviewed via individual letters soliciting the 
expert opinions of four qualified specialists selected from the 
academic and scientific community. The charge to the peer reviewers and 
the peer review report have been placed in the administrative record 
and posted on the agency's peer review agenda. In meeting the OMB Peer 
Review Bulletin requirements, we have also satisfied the requirements 
of the 1994 joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/NMFS peer review 
policy (59 FR 34270; July 1, 1994).


National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 
information that may be considered when assessing species for listing 
to the best scientific and commercial data available. Based on this 
limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the opinion in 
Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 657 F. 2d 829 (6th Cir. 1981), NMFS 
has concluded that ESA listing actions are not subject to the 
environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA).

Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork 
Reduction Act

    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 
ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered when assessing the status of 
a species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to the listing process. 
In addition, this final rule is exempt from review under Executive 
Order 12866. This final rule does not contain a collection of 
information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction 

Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    E.O. 13132 requires agencies to take into account any federalism 
impacts of regulations under development. It includes specific 
consultation directives for situations where a regulation will preempt 
state law, or impose substantial direct compliance costs on state and 
local governments (unless required by statute). Neither of these 
circumstances is applicable to this final rule.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 224

    Endangered and threatened species.

    Dated: December 22, 2021.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 224 is amended 
as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

2. In Sec.  224.101, in the table in paragraph (h), under the 
subheading ``Corals'', remove the entry for ``Coral, [no common name] 
(Siderastrea glynni)''.
[FR Doc. 2021-28335 Filed 12-29-21; 8:45 am]