(This article was originally published on OceanLines on August 4, 2008.)
Half the coral reefs in the United States are categorized in “poor” or “fair” condition according to a new analysis published by NOAA. The report, led by NOAA’s Center for Costal Monitoring and Assessment’s Biogeography Branch and supported by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, was released at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Ft Lauderdale, FL on July 7th.
More than 270 scientists worked to write the 596 page report describing the present conditions of coral reefs. The reefs were studied in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Republic of Palau, Puerto Rico, Guam, Navassa Island, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, southeast Florida, the Florida Keys, the Federated States of Micronesia, Flower Garden Banks, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Main Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific Remote Islands and American Samoa. They were rated on a scale of excellent, good, fair, poor, or unknown. The 2008 report is the third in a series with previous reports in 2005 and 2002. The continuation of the series is meant to strengthen efforts to track the condition of coral reef ecosystems, as called for at the National Coral Reef Action Strategy.
Coastal Coral Reefs are in danger from impacts of humans including coastal development, fishing and recreational use. Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the United States Coral Reef Task Force says that “while the report indicates reefs in general are healthier in the Pacific than the Atlantic, even remote reefs are subject to threats stemming from cilmate change, as well as illegal fishing and marine debris.” The conditions of the coral reefs in the U.S. are declining and as a result Elkhorn and Staghorn corals have become the first corals ever to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator says that “NOAA’s coral program has made some significant progress since it was established 10 years ago, but we need to redouble our efforts to protect this critical resource.”
Copyright © 2008 by OceanLines