Friday, September 03, 2010

Friends of the Monument join call for Coral Reef Conservation

obyan beach underwaterThe Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument are back in the news, this time calling for the US Senate to pass strong conservation-minded coral reef legislation:
September 3, 2010, Saipan, CNMI / Our coral reefs are in trouble. Almost 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost and an additional 35% are threatened according to the expert opinion of 372 coral reef scientists and managers from 96 countries who contributed to the latest Status of the Coral Reefs of the World, published in 2008.

In response, a coalition of non-governmental organizations and environmental stakeholders issued a letter today calling for the US Senate to pass strong conservation-minded coral reef legislation. The US House version of the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act passed in September of last year. Further movement of the legislation now depends on the US Senate.

Thirty-five organizations signed the Senate corals letter. Groups represented include leading organizations such as the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), International Society for Reef Studies, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Surfrider Foundation, Greenpeace USA, Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Coastal States Organization, and Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument.

The Coral Reef Conservation Act authorizes grants for coral reef conservation activities. Funds are awarded under six program categories: State and Territory Coral Reef Management; State and Territory Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring; Coral Reef Ecosystem Research; Projects to Improve or Amend Coral Reef Fishery Management Plans; General Coral Reef Conservation; and International Coral Reef Conservation.

The coalition expressed alarm about the declining health of coral reef ecosystems and the threats coral reefs face. Major threats noted include coastal runoff, overfishing and overharvesting, vessel impacts, invasive species, and coral bleaching, disease, and ocean acidification caused by unregulated greenhouse gas pollution.

Measures before Congress, supported by the coalition, include provisions to increase the status of protection for corals in all U.S. waters, increase funding for coral reef conservation efforts, provide support to better understand and manage the trade in coral reef wildlife, and support communitybased approaches to coral reef stewardship, among others.

“Coral reef ecosystems face growing threats from overfishing, habitat destruction, poor water quality and disease”, said Dr. Andrew Baker, a coral reef biologist at the University of Miami and a 2008 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. “When you add the devastating impacts of our carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to warmer and more acidic oceans, coral reefs worldwide are left reeling from the impacts. The decline of coral reef ecosystems worldwide underscores the need for Congress to pass coral reef legislation, while also renewing its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas pollution.”

“These valuable and fascinating ecosystems are disappearing within our lifetimes, and their loss will have significant economic, social, and environmental consequences in the United States and worldwide,” said Steven Lutz, Executive Director of Blue Climate Solutions, the group that organized the coalition effort. “The Senate has a fantastic opportunity to protect and conserve coral reefs by passing this important legislation.”
The text of the letter signed by Friends' Chairman Ike Cabrera is as follows:
CORAL REEF COALITION LETTER ON THE PENDING REAUTHORIZATION OF THE UNITED STATES’ CORAL REEF CONSERVATION ACT

The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV
Chairman
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchinson
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Chairwoman
Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

The Honorable Olympia J. Snowe
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Oceans
Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

September 3, 2010

Dear Chairpersons and Ranking Members:

As organizations and stakeholders involved with coral reef conservation, we are profoundly alarmed about the threats these unique and invaluable ecosystems face in the United States and around the world. We urge your support for a strong conservation-minded reauthorization of the United States Coral Reef Conservation Act.

Coral reefs provide many important services; they protect coastlines from the damaging effects of storms, and are vital to the economies of many coastal communities in the U.S. and around the world, through revenues generated in tourism and fisheries. The diversity of life they support establishes them as treasure troves of discovery for applications in medicine and industry.

However coral reefs are declining at an alarming rate. Almost 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost and an additional 35% are threatened according to the expert opinion of 372 coral reef scientists and managers from 96 countries who contributed to the Status of the Coral Reefs of the World: 2008 report. The major threats to coral reefs include coastal runoff, overfishing and overharvesting, vessel impacts, invasive species, and coral bleaching, disease, and ocean acidification caused by unregulated greenhouse gas pollution.

These valuable and fascinating ecosystems are disappearing within our lifetimes, and their loss will have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences in the United States and worldwide.

We commend the positive steps taken in the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act by the Senate. We respectfully ask you to adopt the strongest possible language for the conservation and protection of coral reef ecosystems in the reauthorization of this important legislation. Measures we support include provisions to:

• Increase the status of protection for corals in all U.S. waters;
• Support community-based approaches to coral reef stewardship;
• Enable management to effectively address the threat of vessel groundings and seek appropriate liability for such
incidents (with narrowly defined exceptions);
• Support cooperative relationships with universities and other academic bodies, and non-governmental
organizations in promotion of coral reef conservation;
• Enable all relevant federal agencies to effectively participate in coral reef conservation;
• Provide additional accountability for federal funds used for coral reef conservation efforts;
• Provide support to better understand and manage the trade in coral reef wildlife;
• Strengthen U.S. international coral reef conservation efforts; and
• Authorize increased funding to protect these extraordinary habitats.

Please join the effort to conserve our coral reefs by supporting the reauthorization of the Coral Reef
Conservation Act.

Sincerely yours, (signed by the following thirty-five organizations and stakeholders)

Blue Climate Solutions - Steven J. Lutz, Executive Director, Miami, FL

Center for Biological Diversity - Andrea A. Treece, Senior Attorney, Oceans Program, San Francisco, CA

Coastal States Organization - Kristen Fletcher, Executive Director, Washington, DC

Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) - Rick MacPherson, Director, Conservation Programs, San Francisco, CA

EarthEcho International - Philippe Cousteau, CEO and co-founder, Washington, DC

Environmental Defense Fund - Cara Cooper, Coral Specialist, Saint Petersburg, FL

Fauna & Flora International - Katie Frohardt, Executive Director, Washington, DC

Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument - Ignacio V. Cabrera, Chairman, Saipan, CNMI

Greenpeace USA - Phil Kline, Senior Ocean Campaigner, Washington, DC

International Society for Reef Studies (ICRS) - Richard Aronson

Natural Resources Defense Council - Lisa Suatoni, Senior Scientist, Oceans Program, New York, NY

NAUI Worldwide - Jed Livingstone, Vice President, Riverview, FL

Nova Southeastern University National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) - Richard E Dodge, Dean, Wendy Wood-Derrer, Assistant Director of Development, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Ocean Conservation Research - Michael Stocker, Director, Lagunitas

Ocean Defenders Alliance - Kurt Lieber, Founder and President, Scott Sheckman, Acting Executive Director, Huntington Beach, CA

Oceanic Defense - "Educate. Activate" - Samantha Whitcraft, Director, Conservation Biology, Miami, FL

Palm Beach County Reef Rescue - Ed Tichenor, Director, Boynton Beach, FL

Project AWARE Foundation - Jenny Miller Garmendia Director, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Reef Check Foundation - Gregor Hodgson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Reef Check Foundation, Pacific Palisades, CA

Sailors for the Sea - Dan Pingaro, CEO, Newport, RI

Save Our Seas - Capt. Paul Clark, President, Hanalei, HI

Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly the Caribbean Conservation Corporation) - David Godfrey, Executive Director, Gainesville, FL

SeaWeb - Dawn M. Martin, President, Silver Spring, MD

Sierra Club - Bruce Hamilton, Conservation Director, San Francisco, CA

South Carolina Coastal Conservation League - Dana Beach, Charleston, SC

Surfrider Foundation - Chad Nelsen, Environmental Director, San Clemente, CA

The Humane Society of the United States / Humane Society International - Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D., Director of Wildlife, Washington, DC

The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature - Lewis Regenstein, President, Atlanta, GA

The Ocean Foundation - Mark J. Spalding, Ph.D., President, Washington, DC

The Ocean Project - Bill Mott, Director, Providence, RI

The Snorkel Bob Foundation - Robert Wintner, Executive Director, Kihei, HI

Urban Environment League - Fran Bohnsack, President, Miami, FL

Urban Paradise Guild - Sam Van Leer, Executive Director & Founder, North Miami, FL

WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) - Karen Eckert, Ph.D., Executive Director, Beaufort, NC

World Wildlife Fund - Roberta Elias, Senior Program Officer, Marine and Fisheries Policy, Washington, DC

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