Protect and sustain the biodiversity,
health, heritage, and ecological, social, and economic values
of coral reef ecosystems.
Our nation's coral reefs cover
approximately 17, 000 square kilo meters. Ninety percent of them
are associated with U.S. islands in the Western Pacific (Hawaii,
Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas);
the remainder are located off Florida, Georgia, Texas, and U.S.
islands in the Caribbean. These coral reefs support thousands
of jobs and billions of dollars in annual revenues from tourism,
recreation, and fishing; are valuable sources of new medicines
and biochemicals; help prevent shoreline erosion; and provide
life-saving protection from storms.
Despite their unique value,
coral reefs in the U.S. and around the world are quickly being
destroyed by a powerful combination of stresses, such as polluted
runoff, sedimentation, unsustainable fishing practices, collection
and trade in reef species, groundings and other damage caused
by commercial and recreational vessel traffic, diseases, marine
debris, and climate change. During the past two years, unprecedented
levels of coral bleaching and mortality associated with abnormally
high sea temperatures and other factors have occurred. As a
result, approximately 60% of the world's coral reefs are at medium
or high risk from human impacts, and many have been degraded
As part of the National Ocean
Conference in June 1998, President Clinton signed the Coral Reef
Protection Executive Order (13089) to preserve and protect the
biodiversity, health, heritage, and ecological, social, and economic
values of U.S. coral reef ecosystems and the marine environment.
To fulfill its protection efforts, the Order also created the
interagency U.S. Coral Reef ask Force. Additional efforts are
now required to effectively protect, restore, and sustainably
use valuable U.S. coral reef ecosystems for current and future
- The U.S. has not yet developed
a coordinated national strategy to protect and restore coral
reef ecosystems from the effects of human activities and natural
- The U.S. lacks a comprehensive
mapping or monitoring program to assess or track the condition
of U.S. coral reefs.
- Financial and technical resources
are inadequate to help states, territories, communities, and
other nations sustainably manage their coral reefs.
- As the world's largest importer
of coral reef species, the U.S. may be driving the unsustainable
use of coral reefs in other nations.
- Implement Executive Order
13089 as quickly as possible through joint efforts of federal,
state, and local agencies; nongovernmental partners; and other
nations as needed.
- Implement priority actions
of the U.S. Coral Reef ask Force, including the commitment to
prevent federal agency degradation of reefs consistent with Executive
- Increase research efforts
to understand the causality behind the current worldwide decline
of coral reefs and how it relates to disease, temperature change,
- Assist in the design and implementation
of local and regional reef management plans that integrate protected
areas and fishery management with coastal zone and marine management
planning efforts, and increase support for local actions.
- Increase monitoring, protection,
and sustainable use of coral reefs worldwide by supporting international
partnerships at national, regional, and global scales.
- Increase efforts to stem the
problem of trade in nonsustainably harvested corals.
- Work with the International
Maritime Organization and other international partners to prevent
destructive anchoring of ships on coral reefs and provide safe,
alternate anchorage for mariners.
- Seek Congressional support
for the Clinton/Gore Lands Legacy Initiative, which proposes
$10.3 million a 30-fold increase over current funding
levels for coral reef protection.
For more information
Every year, thousands of volunteers
collect vital information on the health of the nation's coral
reefs, helping federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations
monitor and manage these valuable resources. For example, the
Reef Ecosystem Condition Project (ReCon) is training volunteer
divers to collect important data on the temperature, salinity,
and visibility of coral reef waters. And, in 1997-98, Reef Check
used volunteer divers to survey over 300 reefs in over 30 countries.