NOAA 03-123
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Today, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced more than $1.2 million in grants to benefit coral reef science and management in the Pacific at the tenth-annual meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF).

Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the task force, said the grants will help NOAA scientists and local experts work together to achieve coral reef conservation goals. The grants, in part, respond to a resolution passed by the USCRTF in October 2002 calling for the development and implementation of three-year Local Action Strategies (LAS).

The LAS establish local goals for addressing key threats to coral reefs and outline the types of projects and expertise required to achieve these tangible improvements in management. The LAS initiative includes commitments from 11 federal agencies as well as seven state, territory and commonwealth governments.

“Increased collaboration and support is essential to protecting the nation’s valuable coral reefs, and the communities and economies that depend on them,” said Keeney. “The citizens of Guam and the other U.S. Western Pacific Island territories are on the front lines in the battle to save coral reefs and have long seen the value in the federal-local partnerships.”

Collaborative development and implementation of Local Action Strategies is designed to improve coordination between federal and state agencies, local governments, community groups and other partners in addressing the most serious issues related to coral reef conservation.

Working with hundreds of stakeholders, task force members drafted the LAS for the seven jurisdictions on the task force that address issues of land-based pollution, overfishing, recreational overuse, public awareness, climate change and other actions on reef habitats.

Progress in developing the Local Action Strategies has exceeded the original targets outlined at the October 2002 USCRTF Meeting. The collaborative LAS will form the basis for future updates of the U.S. National Coral Reef Action Strategy.

During the meetings the USCRTF adopted resolutions calling for continuation of a NOAA-sponsored Marianas Reef Assessment Monitoring Program to help provide long-term information on the condition of reefs and establishment of an integrated program for understanding local and system-wide impacts of climate change on coral reefs.

Other resolutions called for more input from the public and stakeholders on coral reef issues, evaluation of opportunities to assist Palau and other Pacific nations with coral reef conservation efforts, and the development of response plans in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security to reduce impacts on coral reef habitats during natural disasters, reducing pollution, and improving wastewater systems.

Keeney also announced that NOAA would fund a memorial scholarship in coral conservation in honor of recently deceased American Samoa governor Tauese Sunia.
Sessions of the meeting were held in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the Territory of Guam Oct. 3 through 6. The meeting was co-hosted by NOAA and the governments of CNMI and Guam.

The meetings included Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, Craig Manson, assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior, American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono, CNMI Governor Juan Babauta, Guam Governor Felix Camacho, and President Tommy Remengesau of the Republic of Palau. Senior representatives from ten other federal agencies, Florida, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands also attended.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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