Injury Response Working Group


Acute injuries to coral reef ecosystems can take many forms, from vessel groundings and anchor drag to destructive fishing techniques and oil or chemical spills. The capacity to address these injuries in some cases is limited by legislative authorities, access to technical assistance and training, and scientific understanding.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (Task Force) called for the formation of a working group on Tools for Responding to Major Injury Events at 16th Meeting in 2006 in St. Thomas, USVI. The working group identifies and shares information on tools and training to help prevent, respond to, assess, and mitigate major injury events in coral reef ecosystems. These tools could address unplanned (e.g., vessel grounding or hurricane damage) as well as unplanned but permitted (e.g., dredging or aquaculture) injury events.


Injury Response Tools Resolution


Workshop: Tools for Responding to Major Injury Events in Coral Reef Ecosystems

Approximately 60 representatives of Federal, State, and territorial agencies, universities, industry, and nongovernment organizations attended a workshop entitled "Tools for Responding to Major Injury Events in Coral Reefs" at the 16th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in St. Thomas, USVI, on October 24, 2006. The workshop brought together experts in response, assessment, and restoration to increase participants' capacity through sharing of tools and lessons learned. Sessions offered a broad perspective on response, policy development, and agency capabilities, as well as more technical discussions of specific tools. Presenters included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, State of Florida, and Nova Southeastern University. The overall goal of the workshop was to stimulate discussion and gather information on the jurisdictions' needs to guide future Task Force efforts.

Workshop Objectives

Broaden participants' understanding of processes, science, and the Nation's capacity to respond to coral injury events.

Start to assemble an injury response toolbox and list of experts.

Identify needs and prioritize follow-up actions and activities to increase jurisdictions' capacity to respond to injury events.

Workshop Presentations

Overview: Kris McElwee and Shannon Simpson, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

Coral Reef Emergency Restoration Efforts in the Aftermath of the T/V Margara Grounding in Puerto Rico: Tom Moore, NOAA Fisheries Service, St. Petersburg, FL

Natural Resource Damages: Doug Helton, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, Seattle, WA

Determining Compensation for Coral Reef Injuries: An Overview of the Habitat Equivalency Analysis Approach (HEA) and Visual HEA Software: Richard Dodge, National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, Dania, FL

The Application of Habitat Equivalency Analysis in Planned and Unplanned Injury Events in the Pacific Islands: Part I & Part II: Kevin Foster, USFWS Pacific Islands Fish & Wildlife Office, Honolulu, HI; and Steve Kolinski, NOAA Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, Honolulu, HI

Developing Guidelines for Rapid Response to, and Restoration of, Reef Injuries in Southeast Florida: Preliminary Results from a Local Action Strategy Project: Chantal Collier, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Coral Reef Conservation Program, Miami, FL

Effective Restoration Planning: Examples of Projects and Lessons Learned, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Bill Goodwin, NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Key Largo, FL

Groundings on Coral Reefs: Best Practices for Response and Preventative Measures: Patrick Keane, Seventh U.S. Coast Guard District, Miami, FL

Wreck Removal Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Doug Helton, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, Seattle, WA

Following the presentations, workshop participants discussed the need for tools, training, and technical assistance that were beyond the scope of the current workshop but that may be addressed through future Task Force activities. A summary of the participants' recommendations follows.


  • Ask the Task Force to facilitate the development of a coral reef toolbox that gathers lessons learned, defines training needs, and serves as a clearinghouse for information such as BMPS and points of contact.
  • Ask the U.S. Coast Guard to develop coral teams in appropriate districts within its Regional Response Plan Operations and Planning sections to focus on coral reefs.
  • Ask the Task Force to sponsor broadened injury workshops to include governments, institutions, and industry to further define practices, needs, and training required to effectively address coral injuries.
  • The Task Force should establish an injury tools working group to carry this effort forward by identifying participants from the appropriate member entities.
  • The Task Force should facilitate efforts to expand authority beyond those existing for coral reefs. (Reefs not directly protected in injury events in many cases.)
  • The Task Force request assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice to define legal authority associated with injury events in coastal waters for each jurisdiction.
  • The Task Force should determine what kind of assistance can be provided to the Freely Associated States if a major coral reef injury event were to occur.
  • The Task Force should request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries Service work with jurisdictions to develop lists of potential mitigation sites. Guam has done this already and its work can be used as a template.
  • The Task Force needs to follow up on Federal Emergency Management Agency and Stafford Act authority to address coral reef injury events associated with storms and other natural disasters.