U.S. Coral Jurisdictions

The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) has been an integral part of coral reef management and conservation in the United States for over 25 years. Established in 1996, the AIC represents the combined voices of the seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions (American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawai'i, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and the three Pacific Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau).

The majority of U.S. coral reef ecosystems are located within state and territorial waters; these tropical benthic habitats total approximately 4.7 thousand square kilometers and comprise about 3% of the earth's tropical shallow water coral reefs. These coral reefs are estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually (Brander and Van Beukering 2013). Each year, coral reefs in the U.S. states and territories protect over 18,000 Americans from flooding, prevent more than $825 million in damages to infrastructure, and safeguard approximately $700 million of economic activity from the impacts of coastal hazards (Storlazzi et al. 2019). Across the world, the U.S. is one of the ten countries that benefits most from the risk reduction provided by coral reefs.

In recognition of the immense value and importance of the coral reef ecosystems within the seven AIC jurisdictions, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) invited the Governors of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to join the USCRTF as full members and partners in 1999. The following year, the Presidents of the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau were invited to participate in the USCRTF as non-voting members.

The AIC envisions a world with thriving coral reef ecosystems that are effectively managed to protect their ecological, social, and economic value for present and future generations. The mission of the AIC is to function as a unified voice for the effective management of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and Freely Associated States (FAS). The seven Governor-appointed voting members and three non-voting affiliate FAS members serve as the Coral Reef Points of Contact (POCs) for each jurisdiction. The AIC provides leadership and coordination of strategic initiatives to strengthen the conservation of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and is guided by its Charter, Communication Plan, Strategic Action Plan, and the AIC Secretariat, which is composed of the Science Advisor, Policy Advisor, and Executive Director.

The AIC's greatest strength is its capacity to elevate cross-cutting jurisdictional issues and priorities within the USCRTF and ensure that federal processes related to coral reef conservation are guided by jurisdictional needs. Although the AIC is not directly involved in coral reef management efforts at the jurisdictional level, it does support convergent priorities that are important to multiple jurisdictions and the development of national policies and/or actions that impact local management activities, while serving as an advisory body to the USCRTF on jurisdictional coral reef management issues.

The AIC focuses on collaborative efforts that maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of coral reef management while seeking to address three broad challenges:

  1. Limited coral reef management capacity within local governments;
  2. A need for adequate and sustained funding for coral reef management efforts in the U.S. and FAS; and,
  3. Improved integration of jurisdictional needs into federal policies, plans, and decision making.

The AICps current priorities include strengthening partnerships between jurisdictions and federal entities, improving coastal water quality, upscaling coral reef restoration efforts, and increasing capacity for sustainable management of coral reef fisheries.

We invite you to explore and learn about the coral reef resources of each AIC jurisdiction and the work they are doing to help protect and conserve them. To access state and territorial management plans, relevant publications and reports, data, educational materials, and more, visit the Regional Portal on NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) site.