PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As of Tuesday, the only thing that’s standing in the way of Rhode Island naming an official state coral is Gov. Dan McKee.
The R.I. General Assembly approved legislation that would make the northern star coral, which is the only type found in Rhode Island waters, the state’s official coral.
The bill now heads to McKee’s desk for his signature.
The idea to designate a state coral originally came from Roger Williams University marine biologist Koty Sharp. The northern star coral can live in both cold and warm water, Sharp said, which allows researchers to learn more about the impacts of climate change and pollution.
Rep. Terri Cortivend and Sen. James Seveney, the bill’s sponsors, said they’re happy to promote the designation of a state coral because it puts a spotlight on the research being conducted at Roger Williams University, in turn highlighting the importance of addressing climate change.
“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,” Cortivend said.
Cortivend said while the bill is “somewhat lighthearted and fun,” she hopes it will encourage everyone to take a closer look at the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis.
“These tiny polyps have a lot to tell us about we’re doing to our planet, and designating them our state coral can amplify that message,” she added.
If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island will be the first and only state to have 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,” Seveney said. “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,” he continued.