Legislation to Restore & Conserve Coral Reefs
US Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.) introduced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 this week, according to an Aug. 2, 2019, press release.
The bipartisan and bicameral legislation would reauthorize and modernize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. The Coral Reef Conservation Act, which expired 15 years ago, was designed to promote the conservation of our nation’s reefs.
The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act authorizes five years of directed federal funding and technical assistance to states for the restoration and management of coral reef ecosystems, encourages innovative new Coral Reef Stewardship Partnerships among resource management agencies, research centers, and community stakeholders, and codifies and updates the US Coral Reef Task Force.
“From never-before-seen levels of bleaching in the Pacific, to unprecedented devastation from disease in the Atlantic, coral reefs need urgent help. Our bill gives local governments and communities the federal resources to help save Hawai‘i’s corals,” Sen. Schatz said.
“I saw the devastated condition of our coral reefs firsthand when touring the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in February, and I promised a comprehensive response,” Sen. Rubio said. “This important bipartisan bill will ensure federal agencies are partnering effectively with state and local governments, as well as the communities who rely on the vitality of these critical habitats. Florida’s Reef Tract is an integral component of the economic and ecological character of Florida, and the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 will ensure future generations will be able to enjoy this natural wonder.”
“Coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services to not only our oceans, but also to our island and coastal communities. The long-term ecological and economic impacts of coral bleaching pose serious threats to our way of life,” Sen. Hirono said. “The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act would provide important tools to preserve and sustain the condition of our coral reef ecosystems through community-based management programs. Our bill is a step in the right direction to ensuring that communities that depend on healthy oceans, like those in Hawai‘i, have the resources they need for protecting coral reefs.”
“People from across the world come to Florida because of the state’s natural beauty. During my eight years as Governor, Florida’s annual investments to preserve the environment increased by $1 billion to make sure future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer. Today, I’m proud to join Sen. Rubio, Sen. Schatz, Sen. Hirono and our colleagues in the House to introduce the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019, which will build on our efforts and help restore and protect our coral reef ecosystems,” Sen. Scott said.
Additional original cosponsors of the House bill include Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai‘i). A summary of the bill is available here and a section by section is available here.
“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 would provide critical support to conserve and restore Hawai‘i’s coral reefs at a time when predictions indicate Hawai‘i is headed toward another major coral bleaching event this summer. Coral reefs provide a wide range of cultural, ecological and economic benefits. Also, reefs provide vital shoreline protection for Hawai‘i, which is especially relevant now during hurricane season. This Legislation provides the critical tools, funding and a pathway for implementing the best science and management actions to support the persistence and restoration of coral reefs,” said Suzanne Case, chair of the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.