Measure Aims to Ramp Up Federal Response to Coral Reef Disasters

May 9, 2020, 12:59 PM HST · Updated May 9, 12:59 PM
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French Frigate Shoals is home to abundant wildlife and one of the most significant coral reef systems in the monument. Left: before Hurricane Walaka. (Photo: James Watt/NOAA) Right: after Hurricane Walaka. (Photo: Kailey Pascoe/NOAA).
the monument. Left: before Hurricane Walaka. Right: after Hurricane Walaka.

Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) introduced in the US House of Representatives his bipartisan Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act on Friday to continue, update and improve our national
commitment to save our endangered coral reefs as first set forth in a measure enacted twenty years ago.

“In the two decades since the passage of the 2000 Act, the state of our reefs has deteriorated alarmingly and the challenges and opportunities for effective management have evolved,” Case said in a press release.

Case noted that coral reefs are vital natural infrastructure that safeguard coastal and island communities.

Healthy, resilient coral reefs buffer against severe weather, shoreline erosion, and flooding and serve as natural breakwaters for maritime ports and harbors.

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“Coral reefs also support countless American jobs in the tourism, hospitality, boating, recreation, and fishing industries,” Case added.

“In particular, coral reefs are integral to commercial and recreational sport fisheries across the United States and in our nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone.”

Case continued: “As coral reefs provide a rich habitat for a variety of marine life, the loss of coral reef ecosystems is having very serious consequences for coastal communities and economies, the health of fish and other marine wildlife, biodiversity and the overall marine environment.”

“In fact, such loss is accelerating rapidly, for various reasons. Warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures combined with widespread pollution are threatening their health and causing mass bleaching events. Bleaching events cause corals to be more susceptible to disease and increase their chances of dying.”

Case explained that his Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act will:
• Strengthen the federal responses to coral reef emergencies, including
bleaching, vessel groundings, harmful algal blooms, coral
disease/invasive species outbreaks, and unexploded ordnance
underwater.
• Expand federal grant making for local coral reef conservation
projects, including research on coral biodiversity, propagation, and
resiliency.
• Authorize the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and the Coral Reef
Management Fellowship.
• Authorize the U.S. Department of the Interior to research and
conserve coral resources, including coral reefs within national parks,
national wildlife refuges, and national monuments.

“Coral reefs represent the planet’s greatest source of biodiversity,” Case said.

“Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor but are home to some 25% of all known marine species. Coral reef ecosystems also support upwards of 12% of global fisheries and an estimated 25% of all known fish species. It is critical to life as we know it that we accelerate our efforts to preserve these invaluable and indispensable elements of our natural world.”

Co-sponsors of the measure include:
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI)
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Ted Yoho (R-FL)
Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Bill Posey (R-FL)
Charlie Crist (D-FL)

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