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Hirono, Takai Co-Introduce Coral Reef Legislation

March 18, 2016, 12:34 PM HST (Updated March 18, 2016, 12:34 PM)
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Representative Mark Takai and Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. House of Representatives and Senate photos.

Representative Mark Takai and Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. House of Representatives and Senate photos.

Senator Mazie Hirono and Representative Mark Takai have together introduced The Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act.

The Act would jumpstart research related to coral reef conservation, something that members of Hawai’i’s Congressional Delegation believe is important to the state.

“In the past two years, Hawai’i’s coral reefs have experienced two serious coral bleaching events, and with rising ocean temperatures, we can expect these events to become more commonplace,” said Senator Hirono. “There is much to be learned about mitigation and the long term effects of coral bleaching, and this legislation will spur research to better protect this precious natural resource.”

The marine biodiversity found in coral reef ecosystems provide food for millions of people and protect shorelines from both storms and erosion.

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In Hawai’i, coral reefs are worth $385 million per year to the local economy and have a net present value of $10 billion, according to Senator Hirono and Representative Takai.

“It is very important we do everything we can to conserve the precious coral reef our state is home to.  Through this legislation, we will promote innovative new ways we can protect our aina and a resource that is vital to Hawai’i’s economy.  I look forward to seeing what the scientists come up with and the implementation of the winning design,” said Representative Takai.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared a worldwide coral bleaching event that will impact 95 percent of the coral reefs in the United States, including reefs in Hawai’i.

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Long-term coral bleaching leaves reefs vulnerable to disease outbreaks and death.

This no-cost bill would encourage the 12 federal agencies on the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, which includes NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense, to collaboratively use existing funds across agencies to carry out a competitive prize competition.

The legislation also allows the Federal agencies to work with private entities to both fund and administer the prize competitions. Prize competitions that encourage public-private partnerships like this have a history of incentivizing innovative research that can be integrated into a Federal ocean management strategy.

The Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Donald Beyer (D-VA), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Theodore Deutch (D-FL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

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