Coalition of Conservation Organizations, Scientists Calls on White House and Congress to Protect Corals

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The Coral Reef Alliance, Greenpeace USA, WWF, Sierra Club, and SeaWeb are among a large coalition of 44 conservation organizations and more than 100 marine scientists urging the White House and U.S. Congress to undertake strong coral protection.

Global action is needed to reduce greenhouse gasses and ensure the future of coral reefs

The Coral Reef Alliance (http://www.coral.org) has created a coalition of 44 marine conservation and stakeholder groups and 117 marine scientists to ask the White House and U.S. Congress to undertake the following measures for coral reef protection:

  •     Reauthorization of the U.S. Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000;
  •     Enactment of meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions;
  •     Effective conservation of at least 30 percent of coral reef and reef-associated coastal resources in U.S. states and territories using marine protected areas; and
  •     Support for ocean education and citizen-science programs to create an educated public that understands and is committed to ocean conservation.

Leading scientists and conservationists across the nation have joined the coalition, which has sent signed letters to the White House and the U.S. Congress, urging them to act. The coalition includes groups such as The Ocean Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, World Wildlife Fund, Reef Check Foundation, NAUI and PADI Worldwide, Fugro Earth Data, Surfrider Foundation, and Sierra Club.

"The major threats to coral reefs are well known and the Coral Reef Conservation Act is an opportunity to address them," said Brian Huse, Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). "Through this important legislation, Congress has a fantastic opportunity to advance the protection of these important and irreplaceable marine ecosystems."

Despite their appearances, corals are neither rocks nor plants. Corals are animals that provide marine species with food, fertile habitat for reproduction, and safe havens from predators. Reefs provide more than $15 billion in fisheries and tourism services around the world, and one billion people in Asia alone depend on fish caught in coral reef waters.

Coral reefs are in decline around the world. A report issued last month states that the overall live coral cover for reefs in the Florida Keys has diminished by 50 to 80 percent in the past ten years. Many factors have influenced the decline of coral reefs, including climate change, overfishing, nutrient pollution, vessel impacts, invasive species, and disease. Scientists say that 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed, and another 24 percent may be lost within our lifetime if human impacts on corals are not reduced.

"Global action is needed to reduce greenhouse gasses and ensure the future of coral reefs," said Dr. Andrew Baker of the University of Miami--one of the 117 scientists who signed the letters.

The U.S. Coral Reef Conservation Act is currently awaiting reauthorization in Congress. The legislation is sponsored by Representative Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, and was marked up by the House Committee on Natural Resources in April 2009. Similar legislation awaits introduction in the Senate.

"Movement in the Senate is needed now for timely passage of this important legislation," said Brian Huse. "We are urging constituents to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to make corals legislation a priority in the 111th Congress."

The Act currently authorizes grants for coral reef conservation activities. New provisions include increasing the status of protection for corals in all U.S. waters; supporting community-based approaches to coral reef stewardship; strengthening U.S. international coral reef conservation efforts; and authorizing increased funding to protect these threatened habitats.

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) unites and empowers communities to save coral reefs. It provides tools, education, and inspiration to residents of coral reef destinations to support local projects that benefit both reefs and people.

Read the recommendations: http://www.coral.org/white_paper

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Julie Bennett

Rick MacPherson
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