[Coral-List] U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Announces New Protections for Threatened Coral Reefs

Roger.B.Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at noaa.gov
Mon May 8 14:01:10 EDT 2006

May 4, 2006
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) NOAA06-052

Ben Sherman, NOAA Public Affairs
(301) 713-3066, Ext. 178


     The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force announced a new coral reef 
conservation initiative aiming for stronger enforcement of aquarium reef 
fish trade harvesting regulations, and endorsed designating 2008 as 
“International Year of the Coral Reef” at its semi-annual meeting today.

     At the meeting, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
(NOAA) announced the listing of elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and 
staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) as threatened species under the 
Endangered Species Act. NOAA announced the proposed listing in March, 
2005. Since then, NOAA received public comments and finalized the rule 
to add the two marine species to the Endangered Species list. The final 
ruling will be published next week in the Federal Register.

     “This listing is highly significant for coral reef conservation, as 
these are the first coral species to be listed as threatened or 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act,” said retired Navy Vice 
Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for 
oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "It is extremely important 
that we protect corals as they are a major source of ocean life."

     The panel, which dealt with a variety of issues in the day-long 
meeting, received results of the task force's Local Action Strategy 
initiative and the findings of international collaborative assessment of 
recent Caribbean coral bleaching and heard an update on the proposal to 
designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem as the 
nation’s 14th national marine sanctuary. Kameran Onley, assistant deputy 
secretary of interior, also assumed co-chairmanship of the task force 
representing the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

     The task force approved two resolutions during the business 
meeting. The first resolution called on the task force to examine the 
use of cyanide and other poisons in the collection of reef fish on the 
global market. Although illegal in most countries, the use of cyanide to 
capture reef fish alive is widespread, and is driven by the lucrative, 
growing and largely unregulated international trade in live reef food 
fish and marine aquarium industry. The U.S. is the number one market for 
coral reef fish for the aquarium trade. Previous studies estimate that 
most live reef fish entering into international trade and imported into 
the U.S. are collected with the use of cyanide, and thus are illegal.

     The study will research field-based cyanide detection tests for use 
by enforcement authorities. Tests capable of producing reliable results 
several weeks after exposure to cyanide could also aid the U.S. in 
restricting suspected illegal imports.

The panel also endorsed declaring 2008 “International Year of the Reef.” 
The year-long campaign would include events and initiatives hosted by a 
wide range of government and nongovernmental organizations. A range of 
significant international events are planned for 2008, including the 
quadrennial International Coral Reef Symposium—the world’s largest 
meeting on coral reef science and management—to be hosted by the United 
States in July, the release of global and U.S. reports on the condition 
of coral reef ecosystems, and the 10th anniversary of the task force.

     The task force received two informational reports, the first on the 
status of local action strategy implementation in each of seven task 
force jurisdictions. The report noted that the initiative leveraged 
approximately $24.8 million to implement more than four hundred coral 
reef conservation projects involving numerous stakeholders across the 
seven jurisdictions.

     The second presentation focused on last fall's Caribbean coral 
bleaching event. A team of scientists from NOAA, NASA, and DOI reported 
on the initial impact assessment of the worst bleaching event on record 
in the Caribbean. NOAA has led an international collaborative effort to 
fully document the extent of the event, the second in a three-phase 
response including initial response, near-term reporting and assessment, 
and long-term monitoring. Preliminary results of more than 1,500 
bleaching surveys from 100 researchers in 25 jurisdictions indicate 
severe bleaching throughout the eastern Caribbean.

     In the U.S. Virgin Islands, DOI reported that the bleaching event 
was followed immediately by a severe outbreak of coral disease, 
affecting major reef building species like brain and star corals. 
Elkhorn coral bleached for the first time on record in the U.S. Virgin 
Islands. Bleaching led directly to the death of many colonies. Of more 
than 460 elkhorn colonies in the Virgin Islands National Park monitored 
by the U.S. Geological Survey, approximately 45 percent bleached, 13 
percent died partially, and 8 percent died completely.

     “This event exemplifies our need to better understand the impact of 
bleaching on corals,” said Timothy Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of 
commerce for oceans and atmosphere and task force co-chair. “"The 
near-term assessment and long-term reef monitoring will help us 
effectively protect and manage resilient reef ecosystems that resist and 
recover from bleaching events and other impacts."

     In other actions the task force presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. 
Inouye of Hawaii with a special Coral Champion award for lifetime 
contributions to the conservation and management of coral reefs. An 
additional six task force awards were presented to five individuals and 
one research team for outstanding outreach and education, management, 
and scientific research.

     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 helps lead U.S. efforts to protect and manage 
valuable coral reef ecosystems in the United States and internationally. 
NOAA and the Department of the Interior co-chair the task force.

     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 the 
nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth 
Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal 
partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global 
network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and 

On the Web: NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force - http://www.coralreef.gov

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