Coral Reef NOAA
May 28, 2016  

CRCA Reauthorization


What is the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000?
How Does NOAA Currently Utilize the CRCA of 2000?
Current CRCA Reauthorization Update

What is the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000?

In December of 2000, Congress enacted the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 (pdf, 36 kb), which authorized appropriations to NOAA for coral reef protection and management through 2004. The CRCA provided NOAA with additional authority to undertake a number of activities to understand, manage, and protect coral reef ecosystems by authorizing five major activities:

  1. The CRCA required NOAA to draft and submit to Congress a National Coral Reef Action Strategy (NAS), including a statement of goals and objectives and an implementation plan. The NAS was submitted to Congress by NOAA in 2002, and a report on US Coral Reef Task Force activities to implement the NAS was submitted to Congress by NOAA in July 2005. Every two years, NOAA is mandated to submit a follow-up report to Congress. Click here to access these reports.

  2. The CRCA provides additional authority for NOAA to implement a national program to conserve coral reef ecosystems. Through the CRCP, NOAA conducts activities such as mapping, monitoring, assessment, research, and restoration that benefit coral reef ecosystems; enhancing public awareness of such ecosystems; assisting states to remove abandoned vessels and marine debris from reefs; and conducting cooperative management of coral reef ecosystems.

  3. The CRCA authorizes the Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) to provide matching grants for coral reef conservation projects to states, territories, educational and non-governmental institutions, and fishery management councils. NOAA submitted a report (pdf, 2.57 mb) on the Coral Reef Conservation Grants Program to Congress in December 2003.

  4. The CRCA authorizes establishment of the Coral Reef Conservation Fund. Through the Fund, NOAA works with the non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build public-private partnerships to reduce and prevent degradation of coral reefs.

  5. Lastly, the CRCA provides the NOAA Administrator the authority to provide grants to state and local governments to respond to unforeseen or disaster-related coral reef emergencies. This last authority has not been effectively implemented as grants are not an efficient mechanism for addressing emergency events. Due to the lengthy grants awarding process, funding would not be immediately available to state and local governments to minimize damage to coral reefs during an emergency injury event and to support time-sensitive emergency response and restoration activities.


How Does NOAA Currently Utilize the CRCA of 2000?

The CRCP, through efforts across NOAA, supports and implements coral reef conservation projects within the US jurisdictions and waters with shallow-water coral reefs. This includes Florida, Hawai`i, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Navassa Island in the Caribbean, the remote U.S. island territories in the Pacific, and the surrounding US Exclusive Economic Zone. The CRCP also supports activities with partners to support coral reef conservation projects outside U.S. jurisdictions. It relies heavily on a network of governmental and non-governmental partners to assist in accomplishing its statutory mission. Research, monitoring and management activities are coordinated with several NOAA offices, and with other federal, state, and non-governmental partners.

The CRCA applies to shallow-water coral reefs, and therefore the CRCP has not extended its activities using funds authorized by the CRCA to include deep-sea corals (also known as deep or cold-water corals). Deep-sea corals have a much broader geographic distribution in US waters and NOAA's deep-sea coral conservation efforts are mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006 (pdf, 538 kb).

In the years since its inception, the CRCP has worked to build capacity locally within the seven US coral jurisdictions and internationally in key areas; map, monitor, characterize, restore, research, and assess the condition of coral reef ecosystems; provide support for marine protected areas; understand the threats to healthy coral reef ecosystems; and promote public awareness and education on the value of and threats to coral reef ecosystems. The Program operates under an ecosystem-based management philosophy by considering the many natural resources that make up a coral reef ecosystem, and the human impacts and uses of those resources. The CRCP strives to keep in mind the interconnectedness of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and to proactively protect our nation's coral reef resources.


Current CRCA Reauthorization Update:

The CRCA has been up for reauthorization since 2004. A recent update on the status of reauthorization of the CRCA is listed below; click here to see archives. For the most up-to-date information on the status of reauthorization, please visit the Library of Congress's Website, THOMAS, and search for legislation using the phrase 'coral reef conservation' or a specific bill number (e.g. HR 860). Pertinent active bills in the House of Representatives or Senate will include that phrase in their title or summary.

Note: To become a law, identical versions of a bill must be passed in both the House and Senate.

March 17, 2011

Coral Reauthorization Bills Recently Introduced by Senate and House. The 112th Congress has introduced two bills which are the most recent progress in the effort to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 (pdf, 36kb). S.46, the Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2011 was introduced by Senator Inouye (D-HI) on January 25, 2011. H.R.738, the House's reauthorization bill, was introduced by Congresswoman Bordallo (D-Guam) on February 16, 2011. S.46 is cosponsored by Sen. Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Sen. Snowe (R-ME) providing bipartisan support. H.R.738 is cosponsored by fourteen democrats. Both bills would strengthen NOAA's ability to comprehensively address threats to coral reefs and empower the agency with tools to ensure that damage to our coral reef ecosystems is prevented or effectively mitigated. The bills also establish consistent practices for maintaining data, products, and information, and promote the widespread availability and dissemination of that environmental information. Both allow the Secretary of Commerce to further develop partnerships with foreign governments and international organizations as well as with Federal agencies, State and local governments, tribal organizations, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, commercial organizations, and other public and private entities. These partnerships are critical not only to the understanding of our coral reef ecosystems, but also to their protection and restoration. Finally, both bills allow for any amount received by the United States as a result of illegal activity resulting in the destruction, take, loss, or injury of coral reefs to be used toward restoration efforts.

  • Key Differences between House and Senate version
    • S.46, instead of referencing the National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA) provisions as does the H.R.738, includes specific strengthened language for liability and enforcement provisions that build on the NMSA language incorporating lessons learned and identified gaps. 
    • S.46 establishes a response and restoration account for coral reef injuries within the NOAA Damage Assessment Restoration Revolving Fund. Funds recovered from injury events that occur in areas under NOAA’s jurisdiction will be deposited into this account while funds recovered in areas under the Department of Interior’s jurisdiction will be deposited into their Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund.
    • S.46 does not include authorization for DOI coral reef conservation activities or codification of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.

To see the text of either bill, please search them by bill number on THOMAS, the Library of Congress website. Identical versions of a bill must be passed in both the House and Senate and then signed by the President in order to become law.