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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA's Efforts to Reduce Impacts of Pollution & Coral Disease

Both land-based and sea-based pollution can cause coral reef degradation or loss by increasing the amount of sediment, nutrients, and debris in the water column. To improve the health of the nation’s coral reef ecosystems, the concentration and cumulative impacts of pollutants must be reduced. The National Action Strategy (NAS) calls for action to reduce the quantity of sediments, nutrients, debris, and other pollutants entering coral reef ecosystems, and to mitigate their impacts to the ecosystem.  The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program has worked to reduce the sources and impacts of marine and land-based pollution as well as the impacts of coral disease.

Many U.S. reefs are being severely impacted by diseases that weaken or kill corals and other reef species. In many cases, little is known about the source of, or treatment for these diseases. Working with its partners, NOAA established the interagency Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC), which tracks and predicts coral disease outbreaks, and supports research aimed at finding solutions to these problems. The CDHC has created tools for early warning and identification of the cause of disease outbreaks, and has identified potential solutions to prevent and mitigate future outbreaks.

Since 2000, NOAA has collaborated with the State of Hawai’i, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and numerous other partners to remove over 440 metric tons of derelict fishing gear from coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  NOAA researchers also assess and monitor marine debris accumulation, identify potential sources, and evaluate the impacts of the debris on coral reefs and other protected species.  In addition, NOAA works to enhance public awareness about the debris affecting these remote islands and atolls.

NOAA scientists have worked with their partners to develop Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps for U.S. coral reef areas.  The maps are now complete for the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.  Draft maps for Guam and CNMI are also complete.  The ESI maps consolidate information on shoreline habitats, sensitive biological resources and human resources to help managers respond to emergencies such as hazardous materials spills in reef areas.

Categories of Activities:
Reduce Marine-Based Sources of Pollution
Reduce Land-Based Sources of Pollution
Reduce Impacts of Coral Disease