Roger B Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at noaa.gov
Fri Nov 18 17:56:49 EST 2005

November 10, 2005
Contact:	Ben Sherman, NOAA Public Affairs
		(301) 713-3066 ext. 178	

KOROR, Palau - As they wrapped up a two-day meeting today in Koror, the
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (Task Force) called for the continuation and
growth of initiatives that enhance local management and research
effectiveness throughout U.S. and international coral reef areas. 
 "We have made significant progress in identifying challenges and
opportunities for cooperative research and coral reef management in the
western Pacific and throughout U.S. waters," said Timothy Keeney, deputy
assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and Task Force
co-chair.  "The presenters today made clear that continued success will
require harnessing our collective resources to ensure regional coral
reef managers have the human and technical resources they need to
conserve valuable coral reef ecosystems for future generations."

To enhance regional conservation and management efforts, the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a $750,000 grant award
for the Pacific Islands Educational Partnership Consortium (PIEPC),
whose member institutions include the University of Guam, American Samoa
Community College, the College of Micronesia, the College of the
Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas College and Palau Community College.
The grant will support program enhancements designed to increase the
number of students who train and graduate in the marine and
environmental sciences, including direct support for high school through
undergraduate students from the Pacific Island community, curriculum
development, teacher training, and enhancing research capabilities.  

The 14th biannual meeting featured discussions on Pacific and
Micronesian needs for enhancing conservation effectiveness. The first
session focused on building financial, human and technical capacity in
the Pacific Islands, with expert panelists from U.S and international
agencies, and leading conservation organizations. The second session
highlighted challenges and opportunities for building marine protected
area networks in reef ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean.

The Task Force also passed a series of resolutions during the two-day
meeting.  In recognition of one of the worst regional-scale coral
bleaching events on record in the Caribbean, the Task Force called on
members to lead a coordinated interagency response and to regionally
monitor the extent of bleaching, mortality, coral recovery and the
ecological and sociological impacts of this bleaching event. This
resolution also called for improving U.S. capabilities to forecast
thermal stress and its ecosystem impacts in order to enhance management
and conservation of coral reef ecosystems. Networks of marine protected
areas were identified as a primary mechanism for protecting coral reefs
against the combined impact of a range of threats, with an emphasis on
protecting stress-resilient corals that demonstrate a high survival or
recovery from past bleaching events.

The second resolution called for improving agency capabilities to
prevent and respond to major damage events in coral reef ecosystems,
such as the damage caused by vessel groundings.  In response to the
recent number of major events damaging coral reef ecosystems, the
meeting featured a special panel on technical capacity needs and lessons
learned in responding to major damage events in the Pacific Islands.

The third resolution called on member agencies to create collaborative
partnerships to strengthen the effectiveness of existing sites; to
provide technical assistance and help local officials to better use and
integrate science into the design and management of protected areas; and
to assist NOAA with completion of the ongoing inventory and assessment
of U.S. coral reef protected areas prior to the next Task Force meeting
in winter 2006.  

The Task Force also called on members to coordinate and integrate their
protected area efforts as appropriate with the ongoing initiative to
develop the National System of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), as called
for by Presidential Executive Order 13158 on MPAs.

In response to a series of interagency enforcement workshops throughout
U.S. waters, the Task Force called for increasing agency capacity to
carryout effective enforcement of environmental, marine and natural
resource regulations. Of highest priority is the continued training for
resource management staff and the development of written training
guidance and guidebooks. In addition, the Task Force called for an
investigation of the feasibility of developing judicial training
programs for regional judicial officials. Further, the Task Force
endorsed the International Coral Reef Initiative's (ICRI) efforts to
increase enforcement capacity internationally and called for
coordination of ICRI and Task Force activities.

In addition to the resolutions, the Task Force discussed two major
national reports released this year on the state of coral reef
conservation, management and research: The State of Coral Reef
Ecosystems of the U.S. and Freely Associated States: 2005, and
Implementation of the Coral Reef National Action Strategy: Report to

Immediately preceding the business meeting, select delegates of the Task
Force met jointly with the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), a
global partnership among more than 80 governments, international
organizations, and non-government organizations that strives to preserve
coral reefs and related ecosystems. The meeting included a workshop on
sustainable financing for coral reef management and research, and a
session on improving international cooperation in the Pacific Islands.
In response, the Task Force charged its Steering Committee with
reviewing recommendations from the sustainable financing workshop,
including development of a work plan for creation of a sustainable
financing "toolkit." 

One individual was presented with a special "Coral Champion" award for
outstanding lifetime contributions to the conservation and management of
coral reefs. Noah Idechong, Delegate for the Palau National Congress,
was recognized for his leadership and dedication to conservation of
coastal and marine resources for future generations by promoting
innovative partnerships and sound stewardship at local, nation and
international levels.  An additional thirteen U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
awards were presented to organizations or individuals for outstanding
outreach and education, management, scientific advancement of knowledge,
and community-level participation. 

A Presidential Executive Order established the U.S. Coral Reef Task
Force in 1998 to lead U.S. efforts to preserve and protect coral reef
ecosystems. Through the coordinated efforts of its members, including
representatives of 12 federal agencies, the governors of seven states
and territories, and the leaders of the Freely Associated States, the
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force has helped lead U.S. efforts to protect and
manage valuable coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and internationally.
NOAA and Department of Interior co-chair the Task Force.

NOAA, 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
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program - http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov/
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force - http://www.coralreef.gov
Palau International Coral Reef Center - http://www.picrc.org

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