NOAA05-121
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ben Sherman
9/28/05
NOAA News Releases 2005
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


NOAA REPORTS ON COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
TO PROTECT CORAL REEF ECOSYSTEMS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coral Reef Task Force partners are improving coral reef conservation efforts from federal to local levels according to a new report released today.

The report, “Implementation of the National Coral Reef Action Strategy: Report on U.S. Coral Reef Agency Activities from 2002 to 2003” highlights the activities of USCRTF members and partners in 2002 –2003 under each of 13 national conservation goals defined by the 2002 U.S. National Coral Reef Action Strategy. The report also charts annual funding by federal agencies for activities directly related to implementation of the strategy, and presents an analysis of the future challenges facing coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

“This report demonstrates the power of focused, collaborative efforts to better understand and manage our valuable ocean and coastal ecosystems,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “By increasing individual and integrated efforts, U.S. Coral Reef Task Force organizations are producing on-the ground results that reduce threats to reefs and promote cooperative conservation of reef resources.”

The report indicates that collective research and management actions are moving in the right direction. New coral reef monitoring activities are now being conducted in all 14 jurisdictions throughout U.S. waters yielding important data about water quality, corals, fish and other species that depend on coral ecosystems.

Efforts to produce comprehensive digital maps of all shallow coral reef ecosystems by 2009 are well underway. U.S. shallow coral reef ecosystems mapped and characterized increased from 35 to 66 percent (9,598 square kilometers) from 2002 to 2004.

The U.S. National Coral Reef Action Strategy also calls for improving the use of coral reef protected areas and other tools for effective coral reef conservation. Fourteen new coral reef-protected areas were established in federal waters and several jurisdictions, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, Florida, and American Samoa.

USCRTF partners created new protected area management plans and increased local management capacity for enforcement and education efforts. NOAA, working with state and territory partners, is leading the first comprehensive, nationwide inventory and assessment of all U.S. coral reef protected areas to identify key needs and solutions.

Since 2002, five of the seven U.S. states or territories with coral reefs have instituted new or revised fishery regulations to help restore and sustain coral reef fisheries. NOAA, the United States Geological Survey, and academic partners are also mapping priority moderate-depth coral reef ecosystems identified by regional fishery management councils as important habitat for many commercial fish species.

To translate national priorities into locally-driven roadmaps for cooperative conservation, each of the seven states and territory members of the USCRTF developed three-year local action strategies. These local action strategies prioritize actions needed by federal, state, territory, and nongovernmental partners to reduce key threats to reefs, and were developed with the input of hundreds of stakeholders. In recognition of the importance of this participatory planning and management process, the President’s Ocean Action Plan called for $2.7 million in new NOAA funding to support implementation of the local strategies.

Although NOAA and USCRTF members and partners made significant progress on all 13 goals in 2002 and 2003, the report indicates that additional efforts are needed to reduce the serious threats to reefs and rebuild healthy, resilient coral reef ecosystems.

“By leveraging funds and resources, exchanging ideas, and seizing opportunities, we have begun the long process of reducing threats to reefs and conserving healthy, resilient coral reef ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them,” said Timothy R. E. Keeney, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere and U.S. Coral Reef Task Force co-chair.

“The information in this report, and in the recently-released “State of the Reefs” report, provides clear evidence to Congress and the public that we are making progress in conserving our coral reefs,” stated Craig Manson, assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks and co-chair of the Coral Reef Task Force. “This is particularly impressive since results of our largest initiative, the Local Action Strategies, are too recent to be included here. Future reports will show that this cooperative, locally-based effort is generating even greater progress.”

The report was compiled by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program with input and assistance from the federal, state and territory members of the USCRTF. The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems. The CRCP is a partnership between NOAA offices working on coral reef issues, including the National Ocean Service, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Research and NOAA Satellites and Information Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 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. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with our federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global Earth observation network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov/

To access the full Report: http://www.coris.noaa.gov/

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program: http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov

U.S. Coral Reef Task Force: http://www.coralreef.gov