Hawaii, March 6, 1999
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
"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.
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
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.