FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Colleen Angeles
NOAA receives $6.4 million to help coral reefs in Pago Pago Harbor
NOAA has launched implementation of a $6.4 million emergency restoration plan to restore the reef flats in Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa, injured by nine grounded fishing vessels. Working with the United States Coast Guard, the Government of American Samoa and other natural resource trustees, NOAA will repair gouges in the reef substrate; conduct coral transplants; complete vessel removal to allow for natural recovery; validate a source of long-term monitoring data on Pacific coral systems; and monitor restoration efforts.
"NOAA has placed a high priority on restoring the injured coral reefs in Pago Pago Harbor and we believe that this precedent-setting effort will provide important insights into subsequent coral restoration activities in the Pacific," said NOAA Administrator, Dr. D. James Baker. "I would like to thank Governor Sunia for his efforts to protect coral reefs and for bringing this situation to the attention of the Coral Reef Task Force, and the US Coast Guard for their ongoing effort to respond to this incident, as well as for their response to NOAA's request for funds to restore the coral reefs."
Nine longline fishing vessels came aground on the coral reef flats in Pago Pago Harbor during a 1991 typhoon. At the Coral Reef Task Force meeting in March 1999, NOAA pledged to support Governor Sunia's request to develop and implement a comprehensive response and restoration plan. In August of this year, the United States Coast Guard initiated its second response action to remove oil and other hazardous materials remaining on the vessels, with the objective of reducing or eliminating the threat of a pollutant release. Complementary to the USCG's activities, NOAA assessed the harm to the coral ecosystem from the groundings and subsequent response actions. An emergency restoration plan was developed under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and submitted to the USCG Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. In late September, NOAA received authority to expend up to $6.6 million from the OSLTF to restore the injured reef flats of Pago Pago Harbor.
"This effort marks the shortest time frame for development of a restoration plan; it is the first payment of a natural resource damages claim to NOAA from the OSLTF; and it involves extremely close coordination between a natural resources restoration action and a USCG response activity," added Baker. "Coral reef restoration is a young science, and we will continue to work with Governor Sunia and our partners to take steps to promote reef restoration and response capabilities in American Samoa and worldwide."
The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force will convene on November 2-3, 1999 to further collaborate on the coral reef crisis. Restoration of damaged reefs and emergency response will be discussed.
For more information about the Coral Reef
Task Force visit the Task Force web site at http://www.coralreef.com.
Additional coral reef information can be found on NOAA's web
site at http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov.