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6/8/2021 Assembly OKs bill designating official state coral
STATE HOUSE – The only coral native to Rhode Island waters is poised to join the Rhode Island Red, coffee milk and calamari on the exclusive list of the Ocean State’s official emblems.

With final votes in both chambers today, legislation to designate the northern star coral the official state coral was approved by the General Assembly. It will now be sent to the governor.

The bill (2021-H 5415, 2021-S 0067) is sponsored by Aquidneck Island lawmakers Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Sen. James A. Seveney, who introduced it to help call attention to research being done at Roger Williams University and other New England institutions to learn about the impacts of climate change and pollution through its effects on the northern star coral. It was their constituent, Roger Williams University marine biologist Koty Sharp, who proposed the idea for the legislation to the sponsors.

The species, known scientifically as Astrangia poculata, has a uniquely wide range of habitat and can be found in shallow waters of the Caribbean, the western African coast and the western Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico to Buzzards Bay. It can live just as well in cold water as warm.

“Species like the northern star coral can be a bellwether that shows us where we are headed if we continue to abuse and pollute the earth. We should pay attention to it. While the bill is somewhat lighthearted and fun, what I really hope is that it starts more conversations about why we cannot wait to address our climate change crisis. These tiny polyps have a lot to tell us about what we’re doing to our planet, and designating them our state coral can amplify that message,” said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).

If enacted, the bill would make Rhode Island the first and only state with an official state coral.

“Like any of our other state symbols, designating a state coral is a symbolic gesture, an effort to promote something positive about our state. In this case, what we’re promoting is awareness about our fragile ocean ecosystem, which is critical to our life, our safety and our economy here in the Ocean State. It’s our hope that this designation reminds people how important it is that we protect our environment for ourselves and for future generations,” said Senator Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923