US Coral Reef Task Force Meeting Summary Wednesday February 25, 2004 US Dept. of Commerce, H.C. Hoover Building Washington , DC

The following is a brief summary of the proceedings, if you would like additional information please see the extended summary and presentations on the Task Force website. If you have further questions, please contact the Task Force secretariat.

The eleventh meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force took place on February 25th, 2004 at the Dept. of Commerce in Washington , DC . Governors from two insular areas attended the meeting: the Honorable Felix Perez Camacho of Guam and Togiola Tulafono of American Samoa . President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. of the Republic of Palau also attended the proceedings.

The Task Force heard welcoming remarks from Craig Manson of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Tim Keeney of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the co-chairs of the Task Force, as well as from members of Congress. Representatives Tom Allen ( Maine ) , Donna M. Christian-Christensen (US Virgin Islands), and Madeleine Z. Bordallo ( Guam ) spoke in support of the Task Force and its work.

Roger Griffis (NOAA) and Randy Bowman (DOI), co-chairs of the Coral Reef Task Force Steering Committee provided a progress report on existing Task Force resolutions and initiatives. They discussed the status of the Local Action Strategies and the current action items in regards to these strategies. Roger Griffis also presented a proposal to the Task Force requesting Task Force assistance on producing a report to Congress. This report, mandated in the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, would evaluate the implementation of the National Coral Reef Action Strategy to date. During the Task Force Action Section later in the day, the Task Force moved to accept this resolution.

John McCarroll (EPA), Jonathan Kelsey (NOAA), and Dana Wusinich-Mendez (NOAA) then presented a progress report on the development and implementation of the 3-year Local Action Strategies to address priority threats to coral reefs in both the Pacific and Caribbean-Atlantic regions. The report discussed the progress made on the strategies since the October meeting of the USCRTF in Saipan and Guam . The Pacific jurisdictions are all is finished or very close to finishing their strategies and have begun implementation. The Caribbean-Atlantic state and territories are also working to complete their Local Action Strategies and identifying potential funding sources for the priority projects The states and territories have all identified priority projects for each LAS focus area which are to be implemented in 2004. Significant local resources have been committed to this effort, as well as direct federal support through federal grant programs. However, many funds have been temporarily redirected from other programs to support year one LAS projects. The presenters stressed that other funding opportunities will have to be located for the implementation of year two and three to prevent further redirection of funds. Both regions identified various capacity needs for implementation, including staff support, technical training and consultative assistance. The presenters also encouraged the Federal partners to consider Local Action Strategy projects and capacity needs in their out year planning.

Barbara Best of USAID reported on the progress of the International Working Group and presented a proposal on international leadership to the Task Force. Members of the International Working Group assisted in various projects to address Land-based sources of pollution, overfishing, sustainable tourism, and coral bleaching and coral diseases. They were also instrumental in listing seahorses on Appendix II of CITES. The proposed resolution encourages the Task Force to engage other countries on the impacts of coral reef species trade and assist exporting countries in sustainable management. It also calls for the Task Force to support the upcoming White Water to Blue Water Conference in March, the 10 th International Coral Reef Symposium in June, and the 2 nd Global Conference on Small Island Developing States in September. Finally, it requests that the Task Force participate in a US bid to host the 11 th International Coral Reef Symposium in 2008. During the Action Session later in the day, the Task Force moved to accept this resolution with minor changes.

President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. of Palau addressed the Task Force and expressed his strong commitment to partner with the US to respond to threats to coral reefs. He highlighted recent action in Palau regarding coral reef protection. Among these, Palau passed new legislation regarding MPAs and shark-finning. He also wished to contribute to a network of Marine Protected areas. President Remengesau offered to hold the 2005 US Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in Palau . During the Action Session later in the day, the Task Force agreed to consider this offer.

The Task Force awarded the first Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia Coral Reef Conservation Summer Internship Awards to Ms. Leia LaPlace from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Ms. Aja N.M. Reyes from Guam. The awardees were chosen based on their demonstrated interest in coral reef conservation, exemplary academic achievements, and related work experience. The Department of Interior's National Park Service also announced their commitment to sponsor the internship award for the summer of 2005. The Task Force also recognized Ms. Lauri MacLaughlin, Resource Manager of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, for her exceptional efforts with the U.S. Navy and other partners to rescue and protect corals during harbor dredging and construction projects in Key West, Florida.

The Governors and their representatives provided updates on their local coral reef activities:

  • Governor Togiola Tulafono of American Samoa reported on conditions post- Tropical cyclone Hetta and thanked everyone who sent their concerns. He discussed American Samoa 's current efforts towards coral reef conservation, including their economic valuation study and outreach and education efforts. In conclusion, he reminded the group that many hands lighten the load.
  • Governor Felix Perez Camacho of Guam reported that the intense media coverage in Guam before and after the last Task Force meeting prompted several villages to start watershed management plans. He also discussed the Local Action Strategy (LAS) issues they've been working on since the last meeting in October. He stressed that Guam cannot keep redirecting Coral Reef Initiative funds for LAS implementation and requested that federal partners assist with this process. He also shared photos of the successful recovery of fish in Tumon Bay Marine Preserve.
  • Eric Lausten from Puerto Rico reported that successful progress has been made to strengthen coral reef management in Puerto Rico . He stated that they currently have draft Local Action Strategies in 4 areas. He also informed the Task Force that in January Puerto Rico designated Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincón as a natural reserve and in February they signed new fishing regulations in to law, which are compatible with the Federal Regulations. He reported that the DNER signed an administrative order to regulate recreational use in 6 coral reef keys within 5 Natural Reserves.
  • Bill Rohring from the US Virgin Islands reported on the USVI's critical need for capacity building. He reported that they have been participating in the Coral Reef Management Assistant Program and the new assistant is helpful and enthusiastic. He stated that the USVI have been working with NOAA's Biogeography team to do dive training and informed the Task Force that their status of the reef report is complete and that they look forward to the Task Force's comments.
  • Bob Ballard from Florida reported that, since the last meeting, Florida has lost Sec. David Struhs as head of the Department of Environmental Protection. They have appointed Colleen Castille as the new Secretary who will start by the end of February. Mr. Ballard remarked that Sec. Castille loves coral reefs and will be a large supporter of the Task Force and its work. He also reported that Governor Bush has included $18M for sewage treatment for the Florida Keys and $400K as matching funds for the Local Action Strategy in his budget proposal. He stated that Florida is working to buy 7000 lots to be set aside as conservation lands. $100M has been set aside for this project.
  • Becky Lizama from the Northern Mariana Islands gave a summary of their progress regarding the Local Action Strategy (LAS) since the October meeting. She informed the Task Force that their LAS did not include the multitude of actions already being undertaken to protect reefs and it only represented less than 1/3 of the projects proposed in stakeholder meetings. She reported that CNMI needed $7M for LAS implementation in FY05. Of the 27 projects identified for implementation in year one, 15 are funded, 6 are pending in anticipation of competitive grant awards, and 6 still need support. She reported that some f unding has been secured to enhance their limited human resources and to support 6 new positions. She remarked that over these next few years CNMI's goal is to implement all 49 projects in the original LAS.
  • Athline Clark from Hawaii reported that the state had a fund shopping meeting to leverage funding for their land-based sources of pollution LAS priority projects. She reported that they removed 42 tons of alien algae from Waikiki and developed a brochure on removing fishing gear from reefs. She also described the Living Reef Program, a multi-organization outreach and education program that will include a website containing a game, television and radio advertisements, and a reef stewardship awards program. In addition, Athline shared a sample video from Navigating Change, a 5 part video series for school teachers.

Lelei Peau, Chair of the US All Islands Coral Reef Initiative Committee, spoke on the group's efforts and successes. He discussed the history of their work and present impediments to their efforts. He expressed concern over funding Local Action Strategies from existing multiple pots of money without identifying new sources. He also commented that, due to local regulations, many island states might have difficulty including all stakeholders in planning when these same individuals bid on implementation projects. He reported on the recent Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Forum that was held in Fiji at the beginning of February and thanked the Task Force for their continued support of local management efforts.

After these reports, the Task Force heard public comment from 14 individuals representing various non-profit organizations, research institutes, and stakeholder groups. They also heard updates on the state of US coral reefs and initiatives to address threats to coral reefs. Dr. Paul Sandifer from the US Commission on Ocean Policy gave an update on the Ocean Commission's recommendations for coral reef conservation. Dr. Robert Ginsburg from the University of Miami reviewed the work done by the Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program. Dr. Phil Lobel from Boston University reported on the general status of reefs at Johnston and Wake Atolls under Department of Defense control. Miguel Lugo and Alissa Barron from NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program presented a brief overview of the Education and Outreach and Science Panel presentations held on February 24 th in conjunction with the meeting. Terry Done from the Australian Institute of Marine Science reported on new developments in Australia on coral reef management. Cynthia Bohn from the Fish and Wildlife Service discussed the study on compensatory mitigation for Army Corps of Engineers projects required through Resolution 4 of the 8 th Coral Reef Task Force Meeting.

Finally after discussing the action items put forth to the Task Force, the federal members gave quick updates on their recent activities:

In addition, Tim Keeney, co-chair of the Task Force, mentioned that The National Invasive Species Council has developed a cross-cut budget, which they have proposed to the Council of Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget as a more efficient way to budget. He suggested that the Task Force consider doing a cross-cut budget, which the Task Force agreed to explore.

The next Coral Reef Task Force Meeting will be held in Florida the week of September 13th.

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