Maui, Hawaii March 5-6, 1999 Press Release

U.S. CRTF announces new actions for the protection of Coral Reefs

Secretary William Daley, U.S. Department of Commerce
Secretary Bruce Babbitt, U.S. Department of Interior

In the second meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force today in Maui, Commerce Deputy Secretary Robert Mallett, on behalf of the Task Force, announced a series of actions to begin the collaborated effort to protect and restore coral reefs.

After being in existence for less than nine months, the Task Force identified a number of key actions to begin implementing over the next six months, including:

  • Launch a comprehensive effort to map and assess U.S. coral reefs in the Pacific;
  • Establish a coordinated network of coral reef protected areas, building on existing federal, state, territory and other sites and activities;
  • Implement a coordinated coral reef monitoring program, building on federal, state, territory and other partners and including support for international efforts such as the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network;
  • Coordinate efforts among federal, state, territory and other partners to build emergency response capabilities and restore injured coral reefs;
  • Strengthen local and regional efforts to protect coral reefs through support for priority items identified in the U.S. Islands Coral Reef Initiative.

The Task Force also passed four resolutions today on critical issues facing coral reefs. The Force voted to:

  • Support evaluating options to address imports of coral and coral reef species and promote sustainable harvesting of traded coral reef resources (the U.S. is the world's largest importer of corals, currently importing 80 percent of all coral and 50 percent of aquarium fish traded worldwide);
  • Support the existing U.S. Islands Coral Reef strategy as a priority for new funds proposed in President Clinton's FY2000 Lands Legacy Initiative;
  • Support the Department of State's statement on coral bleaching and climate change. The statement acknowledged that in 1998 coral reefs around the world suffered the most extensive bleaching and subsequent mortality in modern record. It is likely that anthropogenic global warming has contributed to increasing sea surface temperatures, the extensive coral bleaching, and the coral mortality that occurred simultaneously; and
  • Support the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperative's resolution against destructive fishing practices, including dynamite fishing and cyanide fishing.

"This plan of action is a home run in our efforts to protect and restore coral reefs," said U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Robert Mallett. "These are critical issues and we are on the road to protecting our valuable coral reefs."

"In nine months of existence, this group has been able to create an excellent beginning to a comprehensive and coordinated action plan to implement the Executive Order and increase protection for coral reefs," said U.S. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Don Berry.

"I am very happy with the Task Force resolution that recognizes the hard work that has been done by Guam and the other U.S. Islands in drafting the U.S. Islands Coral Reef Initiative," said Guam Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez. "Our report lists approximately $3 million worth of concrete proposals for coral reef protection in the islands."

In the next six months, working groups will build on their proposals and present the Task Force with final strategies that will include budget estimates and performance plans to track progress and measure success.

"This proposal gives the Task Force clear direction and focus on near term actions in FY1999 and FY 2000, and an action plan that identifies additional priorities, needs and requirements in FY 2001 and beyond," said Commerce Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere D. James Baker.

The Task Force meets again in October 1999 for review and possible adoption of the working group strategies as a Task Force Action Plan.

The Coral Reef Task Force was established by Presidential Order on June 11, 1998, as part of the National Ocean Conference in Monterey, Calif. The Task Force consists of senior leaders of 11 federal agencies and representatives of seven states and territories, and is co-chaired by the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Commerce. The Task Force was created to help implement research, monitoring, mapping, conservation, restoration and international measures to reduce human impacts on coral reefs.

Contact: Matt Stout (202) 253-6162 (cell)