NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve, and restore the nation’s coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function.
Management partners in Micronesia recognized that marine no-take zones have been insufficient for improving populations of important fisheries species, and additional management measures are needed. CRCP funded the development of fact sheets on 30 finfish species common and important in Micronesia. The Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Area Community developed the fact sheets, and the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office provided technical support. The fact sheets include the latest science on key life history information, such as size at maturity and home range, habitat needs, regional status, and more.
These fact sheets serve as accessible tools for supporting science-based fisheries management. The fact sheets can help Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Freely Associated States of the Pacific meet their commitments towards the Micronesia Challenge.
Characterized by rapid spread, rapid tissue loss, and high mortality rates, stony coral tissue loss disease, or SCTLD, has affected corals in Florida and 28 Caribbean countries and territories. The disease’s persistence in affected areas and continued spread represents one of the most important threats currently facing America’s coral reefs.
In late 2022, NOAA published its NOAA Strategy for Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: An Implementation Plan for Response and Prevention that outlines a detailed course of action for SCTLD response and prevention activities for the next five years. Recognizing that SCTLD will be present on coral reefs for the foreseeable future, the implementation plan also outlines key actions necessary to address this threat over the long term. The implementation plan includes both areas for continued effort and new activities by either NOAA or other partners. While it is unlikely that SCTLD will be fully eradicated, the plan would provide major gains in terms of reducing the likelihood of further transmission; preparing vulnerable areas in case the disease reaches them; saving priority corals in heavily impacted regions; and contributing to restoration of highly susceptible species whose populations have been devastated.
In December 2015 and April 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, led, with support from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, an assessment of potential damage from dredged sediment to coral reefs adjacent to the Port Miami Entrance Channel. This was an unprecedented evaluation based on concerns by various partner, regulatory, and action agencies after reviewing satellite images depicting sediment plumes in coral reef areas. The reefs are fishery habitats protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The purpose of the surveys was to further understand the spatial extent and severity of sediment-related impacts resulting from dredging.
Severe impacts to coral reef habitat from dredged sediment occurred over an estimated 278 acres of reef, and lesser impacts likely extended to an even larger area. NMFS will use this information to help Port Miami, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders with planning the Port Miami Phase IV dredging. This report on sediment impacts on corals from Port Miami entrance channel dredging helps establish an environmental baseline by enumerating the acres of coral reef affected by the unplanned sediment impacts. The report will also guide subsequent surveys by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Port Miami to determine mitigation actions needed for future project phases.
SocMon is the global socioeconomic monitoring arm of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, or GCRMN, and the monitoring froup collects critical data on the human dimensions of coral reefs, such as people’s livelihoods and dependence on marine resources, perceptions of reef conditions and threats, and other socioeconomic variables to inform coral reef management. With support from the International Coral Reef Initiative Secretariat, the U.S. Department of State, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program, five SocMon coordinators attended the GCRMN Steering Committee meeting for the first time. The participation of social scientists marked an important step forward for a more cohesive GCRMN that better integrates socioeconomic monitoring and includes local and traditional knowledge. This commitment to involving local communities, diverse voices and knowledge systems in coral reef conservation and management was emphasized throughout the ICRI General Meeting, and supports the NOAA/NOS priority for advancing equity.
CRCP released a new story map describing their work from their team’s perspective. The story map provides a more personal look at NOAA through the eyes of passionate and dedicated coral reef scientists and managers.
Established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act, CRCP brings together expertise from across NOAA’s line offices for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and conserving coral reef ecosystems. The program uses a resilience-based management approach to conservation that enhances corals’ capabilities to withstand and recover from stress. As collaboration is critical to coral conservation, CRCP partners with governments, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and communities to target local issues that impact coral reef ecosystems. CRCP’s focus areas include climate change, land-based pollution sources, unsustainable fishing practices, disease, and coral restoration. View the story map to learn more about the Coral Program and meet the team!