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A national conservation group plans to sue federal fishery managers for not following through on a plan to protect 82 different species of coral, some of which are found off the Florida Keys.

The Center for Biological Diversity last week filed a notice of its intent to sue the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service in 60 days for its failure to protect the imperiled coral species under the Endangered Species Act, according to Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the group.

The group in 2009 filed a petition to have NOAA Fisheries Service determine whether 83 coral species needed to be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. NOAA ruled that all but one were in enough jeopardy to warrant being on the Endangered Species List.

Fishery managers had until October 2010 to determine whether to classify them as threatened or endangered. NOAA did “assemble a team” to do so, but failed to complete the task, Sakashita said.

“These corals need protection now,” Sakashita said, adding that 2010 was a bad year for coral bleaching. “We never received a response. They have not met the deadline.”

The corals include large boulder and mountain star corals found from the Keys and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, Sakashita said.

The pending lawsuit is “a good and bad story,” said Millard McCleary, Key West-based Reef Relief’s program director.

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