NOAA and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force was established in 1998 by Executive Order 13089: Coral Reef Protection to lead and coordinate U.S. efforts to address the threats facing coral reefs. NOAA and the Department of the Interior serve as co-chairs of the Task Force, which includes the heads of twelve federal agencies and the governors of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The leaders of the Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau) also participate as non-voting members. Through the coordinated efforts of its members, the Task Force has helped build and lead U.S. efforts to protect, restore and sustainably use the nation’s valuable coral reef ecosystems.
In 2000, the Task Force developed the National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs (NAP) to serve as the nation’s blueprint for reversing the worldwide decline of coral reef ecosystems. In September 2002, NOAA, in cooperation with the Task Force, released a report to Congress entitled A National Coral Reef Action Strategy (NAS). NOAA and its partners work to implement actions laid out in the two documents. These actions fall under two major themes: (1) Understand Coral Reef Ecosystems, and (2) Reduce Adverse Impacts of Human Activities. Many of NOAA’s coral reef activities contribute to efforts to address topics in the NAP and to implement the NAS.
Understand Coral Reef Ecosystems: The NAP tasks NOAA and its Task Force partners with developing a comprehensive understanding of coral reef ecosystems in order to improve stewardship of these valuable resources. This includes studying the causes of coral reef decline, determining the impacts of natural and human stresses on reef and reef-associated ecosystems, and developing effective solutions to reduce human impacts. The NAP identifies four strategies to develop a comprehensive understanding of reef ecosystems:
- Develop comprehensive maps of all U.S. reefs;
- Develop a nationally-coordinated coral reef inventory, assessment and monitoring program;
- Support research that focuses on determining the status of coral reef health and recovery, including basic ecological processes, bleaching and disease, and best management practices for managing reefs and marine and terrestrial habitats; and
- Conduct socioeconomic studies of the human dimension of successful coral reef conservation.
NOAA and its partners have conducted numerous mapping projects, stepped-up monitoring and research activities, and will continue to conduct projects in an effort to understand coral reef ecosystems.
Reduce Adverse Human Impact: The NAP calls on NOAA and its Task Force partners to reduce or eliminate the most destructive human-derived threats to coral reefs. The NAP identifies nine strategies for lessening or eliminating the adverse effects of human impacts on coral reefs:
- Expand and strengthen the network of coral reef marine protected areas (MPAs) and reserves;
- Reduce the adverse impacts of extractive uses such as overfishing;
- Reduce habitat destruction;
- Reduce pollution such as marine debris;
- Restore damaged reefs;
- Reduce global threats to reefs;
- Reduce impacts of international trade of coral reef resources;
- Improve interagency accountability and coordination; and
- Create an informed public.
NOAA and its partners have spearheaded efforts to achieve these goals and will continue to address these in the coming years.
To learn more about the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, visit: http://www.coralreef.gov.