The 29th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force


Source: NOAA
       On Thursday, February 21, 2013 Mike Gravitz, Rachel Keylon, and I attended the 29th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting at the Department of Interior.  This was an opportunity for concerned citizens and conservation groups to offer public comment on the federal government’s efforts to preserve coral reefs and their associated marine resources. Mike Gravitz, Marine Conservation Institute’s Director of Policy and Legislation, shared key messages on key work protecting corals through marine protect areas.  Below please find selected comments focusing on the Pacific Ocean marine national monuments, home to some of America’s most important coral reef ecosystems.
       
        “Marine Conservation Institute advocated and supported the establishment of the four marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean: Papahānaumokuākea, Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments. Together these monuments encompass over 335,000 square miles of habitat for an incredible diversity of coral reef species, fishes, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals. Additionally, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument contains some of the last remaining, relatively intact coral reef and pelagic ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean.
       
        However, many years after the establishment of these monuments, Marine Conservation Institute is deeply concerned that the federal agencies responsible for management of these resources do not have adequate resources to effectively protect and conserve the land, waters, and seafloor of all four marine monuments.
         
        Monument plans and fishing regulations have not been completed and most islands remain essentially unmanaged and unmonitored. Despite their remote location, some of the monuments are subjected to illegal fishing, at risk of groundings by fishing and other vessels, and experiencing illegal visits by boaters who potentially bring invasive species to the islands.  These threats affect the islands themselves, the shallow coral reefs around them, and the open ocean.  
       
       We believe that the USFWS, NOAA and the USCG need adequate funding to complete the management plans and do day-to-day research, surveillance and enforcement. In addition, funds are needed to handle emergencies like storms, tsunamis, marine debris from Japan, and other events.
Source: NOAA
       
       For instance, over 90% of Hawaiian green turtle reproduction and 20% of endangered monk seal reproduction occurs in and around Tern Island in Papahānaumokuākea. A recent severe storm damaged the facility on the island, where government and university researchers conducted vital long-term monitoring on corals, seabirds, sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals.These facilities should be restored to  continue vital research and provide a presence against poaching, trespassers, and invasive species introductions. In addition, staff on the island have rescued numerous monk seals, sea turtles and sea birds from entrapment in deteriorating seawalls around the island. Places that are remote, out of sight and out of most minds, such as the Pacific marine monuments, often get the ‘short end of the stick’ when budgets get very tight.  It is hard to justify spending money on places that few citizens will ever visit and enjoy. But it is these very places, the pristine and remote environments that serve as environmental benchmarks, protect rare species, or have extremely high biodiversity that are most in need of our continued support. We hope you will agree that now is not the time to consign our marine monuments to benign neglect. We ask you to fight for continued funding at current or higher levels for these monuments. Unfortunately, the threats won’t go away even if the money does.”
      
        Marine Conservation Institute is dedicated to saving the oceans.  In order to save these precious national treasures Marine Conservation Institute works with scientists, politicians, and government officials.  Marine Conservation Institute is vocal on various ocean issues and we encourage you to tell us how you think Marine Conservation Institute is doing!  Please comment and tell us about issues, you the public believe we should be addressing, or about how you think Marine Conservation Institute is performing addressing important conservation issues.
Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving our living oceans.  We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to protect essential ocean places and the wild species in them. – See more at: http://www.marine-conservation.org/who-we-are/#mission
Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving our living oceans.  We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to protect essential ocean places and the wild species in them. – See more at: http://www.marine-conservation.org/who-we-are/#mission
 

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