NOAA report states half of US coral reefs in 'poor' or 'fair' condition

Jul 07, 2008

Nearly half of U.S. coral reef ecosystems are considered to be in "poor" or "fair" condition according to a new NOAA analysis of the health of coral reefs under US jurisdiction. The NOAA report says that the nation's coral reef ecosystems, particularly those adjacent to populated areas, continue to face intense human-derived threats and while remote reefs are subject to threats such as marine debris, illegal fishing and climate change.

The report issued today, The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2008, says that the nation's coral reef ecosystems, particularly those adjacent to populated areas, continue to face intense human-derived threats from coastal development, fishing, sedimentation and recreational use. Even the most remote reefs are subject to threats such as marine debris, illegal fishing and climate-related effects of coral bleaching, disease and ocean acidification.

The report was released by NOAA at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 270 scientist and managers working throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, the Atlantic and Pacific authored the 15 jurisdiction-specific chapters of the report. The scientists graded the coral ecosystems on a five tier scale: excellent, good, fair, poor and unknown.

"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," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

The 569-page document details coral reef conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Navassa Island, southeast Florida, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks, the Main Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, the Pacific Remote Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the Republic of Palau.

"The report shows that this is a global issue," said Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the United States Coral Reef Task Force. "While the report indicates reefs in general are healthier in the Pacific than the Atlantic, even remote reefs are subject to threats stemming from climate change as well as illegal fishing and marine debris."

The conditions of U.S. coral reefs have been declining for several decades according to the report's authors. As an indicator of this decline, since the last status report was released in 2005, two coral species -- Elkhorn and Staghorn corals --- have become the first corals ever listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The 2008 report is the third in a series, representing an evolving effort to track the condition of coral reef ecosystems at both local and national scales. It was called for in the National Coral Reef Action Strategy (NCRAS) and was designed to address the primary threats, goals and objectives outlined in the NCRAS, the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, and other guid¬ance documents. NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment's Biogeography Branch led the development and production of the report with support from NOAA's Coral Reef Conserva¬tion Program.

The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Asso¬ciated States: 2008 is available for free download at ccma.nos.noaa.gov/stateofthereefs .

Source: NOAA Headquarters

Explore further: Increase in reported flooding a result of higher exposure

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia launches 'Green Army' for environment

Aug 02, 2014

Australia on Saturday launched its 'Green Army' which plans to recruit up to 15,000 young people for projects to conserve and rehabilitate the environment—the biggest land care mobilisation in the nation's ...

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

Jul 31, 2014

While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes ...

Underwater elephants

Jul 29, 2014

In the high-tech world of science, researchers sometimes need to get back to basics. UC Santa Barbara's Douglas McCauley did just that to study the impacts of the bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) on cor ...

Study: Carib reefs need parrotfish, sea urchins (Update)

Jul 02, 2014

Colorful parrotfish and spindly sea urchins are the key to saving the Caribbean's coral reefs, which may disappear in two decades if no action is taken, a report by several international organizations said ...

Recommended for you

Earth's resource budget for 2014 already spent, NGO says

17 hours ago

In under eight months, humanity has used up its yearly quota of replenishable Earth resources, according to a report published Tuesday by an environmental thinktank that monitors mankind's impact on the planet.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 07, 2008
in other words; half are in good condition