NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Fiscal Year 2006 Accomplishments
In fiscal year (FY) 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP)
received $25.1 million to support activities to conserve, manage, and
understand coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and around the world. The
funding allowed NOAA to implement over 114 projects within the .ci~ei v.
fund three coral reef research institutes, and provide just over $7 million in
grants for additional projects. These projects addressed priority goals such
as mapping coral reef ecosystems, monitoring reef health, improving
management effectiveness, and reducing the impacts ofoverfishing, coastal
uses, and pollution on coral reefs. For more details on all of the activities of
the NOAA CRCP, visit the "NOAA's Coral ReefActivities section of
NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS).
Below are just afew of the many accomplishments NOAA's CRCP achieved,
with hundreds ofpartners, over the past year.
NOAA Leads International Response to Record-Breaking Coral
Bleaching Event. Coral bleaching occurs when corals, stressed by
temperature and light, expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues.
Bleaching that lasts longer than one week can lead to coral death and loss of
A satellite-generated image showing
intensified sea surface temperatures in
the Caribbean in October 2005, during
an unprecedented bleaching event in
the region. Credit: NOAA Coral Reef
coral reef habitats for other marine life. In August 2005, the CRCP's new Coral Reef Watch (CRW) Satellite Bleaching
Alert system sounded the first warning of an oncoming warming event in the Caribbean. The alerts mobilized local
efforts to monitor the bleaching as it happened, and gave scientists critical advance warning to develop response
strategies and minimize additional stress to reefs. In response, a resolution was passed by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
(USCRTF) to lead a coordinated interagency response to the bleaching event. NOAA, with the National Park Service and
U.S. Geological Survey, then took the lead in documenting the extent of the event and collecting and mapping over 1500
bleaching and mortality observations from more than 100 scientists in 22 jurisdictions. Data showed that record-breaking
thermal stress had caused the worst bleaching event on record in the Caribbean, with as much as 90% of corals bleached
and 40% mortality or greater at many sites throughout the region. To respond to future events, the bleaching alert system
will be expanded from six Caribbean sites to 24 sites throughout the U.S. and international Caribbean, and a total of 96
NOAA, GBRMPA Partner to Develop International Coral Bleaching Response Guide. NOAA's CRCP and the
Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) led the production of a new document entitled "A Reef
Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching." Over 50 experts from 25 organizations contributed to the Guide, including
multiple NOAA offices, the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
(IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and others. The document grew out of a 2002 resolution by the U.S. Coral Reef
Task Force for agencies and partners to develop information and tools for coral reef managers to address coral bleaching.
The Guide provides coral reef managers and scientists with the current understanding of the effects and causes of coral
bleaching, and provides pragmatic, science-based strategies for adaptive management of this threat to coral reef
ecosystems. The Guide was published by the Australian government (GBRMPA) and released at international rollout
events in Washington, D.C., the 3rd International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium and the 16th U.S.
Coral Reef Task Force meeting in October of 2006.
NOAA, NSTA Partner to Bring Coral Reefs to Teachers Nationwide. NOAA's CRCP, in partnership with the
National Ocean Service and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), developed a suite of education and
professional development resources for teachers wanting to explore coral reef ecosystem science in their classrooms. The
suite includes: a half-day symposium, 'Coral Ecosystems', given at the 2006 annual NSTA convention; the "Coral Reef
Ecosystem SciGuide," an online guide to coral reef teaching resources and pedagogy; two online Web seminars; and a
series of online professional development tools called "SciPack." A total of 194 teachers from 40 states and two
countries participated in the symposium and Web seminars, and ninety-eight percent reported a desire for more coral
seminars and teaching resources. The SciGuide and SciPack will reach thousands of teachers and students each year.
The CRCP Assists With Capacity Building and Planning for the Management of Land-based Sources of Pollution.
With the goal of improving watershed protection at the local level, the CRCP has held a series of community workshops
in Hawai'i, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico. The workshops were tailored to the needs of the individual
jurisdictions and targeted to increase tools, coordination, and implementation of actions to improve watershed protection
and reduce downstream impacts on valuable coral reef resources; they built on efforts in each jurisdiction to implement
Local Action Strategies (LAS) that reduce land-based pollution and other key threats to coral reefs. A wide range of
stakeholders, from government (federal, territory, local) to non-governmental (business, academic, private land owners),
were involved in the workshops. Participants took part in case studies, hands-on activities, group discussions, and
regulation review. Outcomes include a draft approach for interagency implementation of erosion and sediment control
(ESC) in USVI, establishment of an USVI 'Implementation Team' to continue working on ESC issues, and initiation of a
pilot ESC project in Puerto Rico. Additional workshops are planned to address land-based pollution in American Samoa.
A NOAA scientist removes
derelict fishing gear from the reefs
of Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
NOAA Maps and Removes Tons of Marine Debris from Hawaiian Islands.
From 1996 to 2006, NOAA and partners have led efforts to locate and remove over
560 tons of marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI); 18
tons were removed in 2006 alone with the assistance of CRCP funds. These
islands, now part of a Marine National Monument, are particularly prone to the
accumulation of floating debris due to their central location in the North Pacific
gyre. Most of the debris is derelict fishing gear that entangles and kills endangered
Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles, coral, and other wildlife. A recent
study indicates that the NWHI accumulate over 52 tons of debris each year,
and future operations will focus on removing as much of that accumulation
as possible. In 2006, CRCP scientists also led efforts to assess the extent and
impact of marine debris in the main Hawaiian Islands. Hot-spot debris areas were
located via aerial surveys, and these data were used to create maps of debris
distribution and abundance. Surveys of Kaua'i, Moloka'i, Lfna'i, Maui, O'ahu and
the Big Island of Hawai'i are now complete. As in the NWHI, the marine debris
problem in the main Hawaiian Islands has proven to be greater than expected, with
711 debris sites reported. These maps will aid communities and federal, state and
local coastal managers to identify and prioritize clean-up areas and target sites for
Credit: NOAA Pacific Islands NOAA Awards $10 Million in Coral Reef Conservation Grants. In 2006,
Fisheries Science Center NOAA's CRCP awarded almost $10 million in grants to external partners in
support of coral reef research, education, management, and conservation.
Representing over 35 percent of the CRCP budget for 2006, these awards reflect
NOAA's strong support for cooperative partnerships and conservation efforts outside the agency. Funds supported a
range of activities, from community conservation projects to large-scale coral reef observation systems, and included
support for three coral reef research institutes one each in Hawai' i, Florida and Puerto Rico. Grants included NOAA's
Coral Reef Conservation Grants Program, which supports grants in six domestic and international categories, and the
jointly managed NOAA-National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coral Reef Conservation Fund (Coral Fund). In its first
five years, the Coral Fund provided over $12 million in federal and non-federal matching funds for 140 coral
conservation projects in 28 countries, seven U.S. trusts or territories, and four U.S. states.