Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force met recently at the Department of the Interior to discuss ways to support efforts by state and territory reef managers to raise public awareness of the threats facing reefs, and to address one of the biggest threats to those reefs – land-based pollution sources that imperil some of the world’s most diverse wildlife resources.
At the 17th biannual meeting last week, the Task Force – composed of federal agencies, states and territories involved in coral reef conservation – hosted a special session on the status of its Local Action Strategies Initiative. State and territory reef managers highlighted significant progress in addressing land-based pollution sources and raising public awareness, but also requested further federal technical and financial assistance for moving these local conservation efforts forward.
The Task Force is examining ways to strengthen the capacity of local and state management agencies to carry out conservation work. These ‘capacity’ needs range from increased training for management staff to sustained funding and increased educational and job opportunities to build and retain local expertise.
“These jurisdictional coral projects are where the real work of conserving our coral reefs takes place,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs David Cohen. “We need to do all that we can to help them succeed.”
Of 700 Local Action Strategy projects developed across U.S. coral reef jurisdictions to maximize conservation gains at the local and state/territory level, 500 projects are underway. Of the $63 million needed for full Local Action Strategy implementation, $25 million, or 45 percent, has been raised from federal, state, territory and private sources.
The Task Force also passed a resolution supporting reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act, in light of the key role the Act has played in conserving coral reef resources.
“The Act has been very important for allowing NOAA to help advance coral reef conservation nationally and on the ground,” said Timothy Keeney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Task Force co-chair.
The original Act was passed in 2000, and was up for reauthorization starting in 2004.
Presentations at the meeting were made by field staff from Florida, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, representing all of the jurisdictions of the United States with coral reefs.
Presidential Executive Order 13089 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 advance U.S. efforts to protect and manage valuable coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and internationally. The Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) co-chair the Task Force.
The 12 federal agencies represented on the Task Force – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of State, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, Agency for International Development, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and U.S. Coast Guard – will review the priority needs to determine where they may be able to offer technical assistance, personnel or funding.
The Task Force also reviewed a draft action plan for the International Year of the Reef in 2008, after hosting a summit on U.S. participation in the international year. Over 70 individuals from almost 40 agencies, non-profit organizations, universities and other groups participated in helping shape plans for collaborative action and public education.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett delivered the keynote address, challenging the Task Force to think beyond present approaches as they look to the future.
The next meeting of the Task Force will be in American Samoa in August.
On the Web:
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force - http://www.coralreef.gov
Department of the Interior – http://www.doi.gov
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program - http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov
International Coral Reef Initiative: http://www.icriforum.org
International Year of the Reef 2008: http://www.iyor.org