U.S. Coral Reef Task Force takes action

Roger B Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at hdq.noaa.gov
Thu Mar 9 15:06:37 EST 2000

On March 2, 2000, the United States Coral Reef Task Force unanimously
adopted an historic plan for U.S. actions to protect and sustainably use
coral reefs.  Several hundred people attended the March 2 Task Force
meeting in Washington, D.C. and many others provided written comments to
the Task Force both before and after the meeting.

Below is a short press release on the Task Force action.   The new
"National Action Plan for Coral Reef Conservation" and other information
on the Coral Reef Task Force are available on the Task Force web site
http://coralreef.gov/.  Thank you.
Press Release: Department of Commerce/NOAA; Department of the Interior
March 2, 2000

Will Tackle Major Risks to Economy, Consumers, Environment

Plan Calls for Protecting 20 Percent of All U.S. Coral Reefs by 2010

In a groundbreaking step, the U.S. Coral Task Force today unveiled the
first-ever National Action Plan to comprehensively and aggressively
address the most pressing challenges facing coral reefs today.  As
members of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce,
the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies are
joining with coastal states and territories to launch this cooperative
effort to help save the world’s remarkable coral reefs.

U.S. Coral Reef Task Force co-chair Secretary of the Interior Bruce
Babbitt said, “I commend everyone whose hard work paid off in developing
the National Action Plan.  We stand at a very critical point for the
preservation of vital coral reefs resources.  Today’s agreement to
protect and set aside 20 percent of coral reefs in this nation’s waters
by 2010 will increase the long-term survival of coral reefs and the vast
array of marine species that depend upon them.  The action plan, when
implemented, will also lead to more robust economies and safer,
healthier futures for people and islands protected and sustained by
these ancient and magnificent coral reefs.”

“Protecting 20 percent of all U.S. reefs and other decisive actions
called for in the new plan is crucial because two-thirds of the world’s
reefs may be dying. If current conditions continue, an alarming 70
percent of the world’s reefs may be gone by 2050. This rapid decline
represents a serious threat to businesses, consumers, communities, and
the environment,” said D. James Baker, Task Force co-chair and NOAA

Driven largely by such human activities as pollution, overfishing and
dredging, the coral reef crisis places a multitude of human, natural and
economic needs in jeopardy.  As the “rain forests of the sea,” coral
reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion
annually, a staggering figure for an ecosystem covering less than one
percent of the Earth’s surface.

In the U.S. alone, coral reef ecosystems support millions of jobs.  They
support billions of dollars in tourism each year, over $1.2 billion in
the Florida Keys alone.  In Hawaii, gross revenues generated from just a
single, half square mile coral reef reserve are estimated to exceed $8.6
million each year.

The annual dockside value of commercial U.S. fisheries from coral reefs
is over $100 million.  The annual value of reef-dependent recreational
fisheries probably exceeds $100 million per year.  In developing
countries, coral reefs contribute about one-quarter of the annual total
fish catch, providing food to about one billion people in Asia alone.

Further threatened by the current global reef crisis is the exciting
promise of life-saving and other critical pharmaceuticals.  Coral reefs
are the medicine chests of the 21st century – they are considered to be
one of the primary sources of new medicines and biochemicals in the new
century.  Examples include many pharmaceuticals now being developed as
possible cures for cancer, arthritis, viruses, and other diseases.

The new National Action Plan is designed to be the nation’s roadmap to
more effectively understand coral reef ecosystems and reduce the adverse
impacts of human activities.  Responding to the urgency of the current
situation, the new plan draws on the expertise and commitment of
hundreds of public and private stakeholders.  The plan calls for:

- Designating 20 percent of all U.S. coral reefs as no-take ecological
reserves by 2010. With the fishing community and a broad range of other
stakeholders, the existing network of coral reef protected areas will be
expanded to ensure the survival of key sites.

- Mapping all U.S. coral reefs by 2009. Right now, just five percent of
all U.S. reefs have been adequately mapped.  To meet critical management
needs, the first priority will be to complete ongoing mapping of
Caribbean reefs and reefs on the eight main Hawaiian Islands.

- Monitoring to build an integrated national reef monitoring system that
profiles and tracks the healthy of U.S. coral reefs. This monitoring
will build on and link existing federal, state and territorial
monitoring in addition to implementing new monitoring to, wherever
possible, fill in current gaps.

- An All-Islands Coral Reef Initiative to address the highest priorities
of U.S. state and territorial islands.  Since 1994, the islands of
Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin islands, and
the Commonwealth of Northern Marianan Islands have been working together
to protect and sustainably use coral reefs.  In FY 2000, NOAA and the
Department of the Interior will provide $1.35 million to assist U.S.
islands to improve coral reef management and protection, including
monitoring, education and designation of marine protected areas.

For more information please see the Coral Reef Task Force web site
For press information contact Madelyn Appelbaum, NOAA Public Affairs,
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