Legislation promoting reef restoration was approved by the US Congress and signed into law last week.
The legislation, included in the annual defense policy bill, reauthorizes and modernizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, strengthens the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef program and gives new and innovative tools and resources to the non-federal partners who are closest to the crisis in US coral reefs: states, territories, and local communities.
Specifically, the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act increases authorizations for the NOAA Coral Reef Program from US$16 million (~€15 million) to $45 million (~€42.3 million) annually.
The legislation also authorizes a state block grant program for $12 million (~€11.3 million) annually to support state efforts to manage and restore coral reefs, and $4.5 million (~€4.2 million) annually for Pacific and Atlantic coral reef cooperative institutes.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said:
“I saw firsthand the devastated condition of our coral reefs when I toured the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and I promised a comprehensive response. This new law will ensure federal agencies are partnering effectively with state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to restore our dwindling coral reefs. The Florida communities that rely on the health of these critical ecosystems cannot be left behind. This is a pivotal moment in the battle to save our corals and protect our coastal communities.”
Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono said:
“Coral reefs are vital to Hawaii’s environment, providing a rich habitat for marine life while helping to protect our coastlines and prevent flooding. However, decades of pollution and ocean warming caused by climate change have left corals in Hawaii and around the world at risk of extinction. As we work to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems, I’m glad that President Biden has now signed the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, which includes my legislation to create prize competitions that will help incentivize innovation and inspire creative solutions to protect coral reefs. I’ll continue fighting to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs and all of our natural resources for generations to come.”