International Working Group


Coral reefs are found in more than 90 countries, serving important economic, social, and cultural roles and constituting the economic base in many countries, especially in small island nations. Healthy marine ecosystems are critical to U.S. diplomatic and development strategies in many countries to promote economic and food security, social stability, improved human health, natural disaster protection, adaptation to climate change, and biodiversity conservation. New conservation and management initiatives at international, national, and local levels are showing considerable success in halting and reversing reef decline. To build on these localized activities, the United States needs to help countries replicate small-scale successes on national and regional scales. The National Action Plan calls on the United States to reduce threats to coral reef ecosystems on an international level and to promote sustainable management of reef resources worldwide.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force also plays a role in addressing unsustainable trade in coral reef resources: Coral reefs face increasing pressure from commercial harvesting for export to supply the world's growing demand for food, aquarium organisms, live reef fish food, curios, jewelry, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicines. In many cases, collection occurs at unsustainable levels, leading to a reduction in the abundance and biomass of targeted species, a shift in species composition, potential large-scale ecosystem degradation, and diminished long-term benefits to local communities. Many of the coral reef animals and products imported into the United States may be captured using methods that are damaging to reefs and may be collected at unsustainable levels. Eliminating destructive collection practices and overfishing can help local communities and the marine aquarium industry sustain jobs and income, and help ensure access for U.S. consumers to quality products without impacting the health and sustainability of coral reefs.

The USCRTF works to strengthen human and institutional capacity to develop and implement sustainable management plans, enforce relevant laws and regulations, develop environmentally sound collection practices and alternatives, and implement other measures to protect and conserve coral reef ecosystems.


International Working Group Report - U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting, November 2-3, 1999

International Trade in Coral and Coral Reef Species: The Role of the United States. Presented to the USCRTF, March 2, 2000