CRCP MISSION: The CRCP supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems for future generations.
Coral Reefs—Essential to Human Well-being
Healthy coral reefs are some of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet, annually providing an estimated $375 billion in economic and environmental services [a] such as food, protection for coasts, and tourism. Reef-supported tourism alone generates an estimated $30 billion. [b] They are home to enormous riches in biological diversity, which is part of what makes them so beautiful and awe-inspiring. Medical advances on the horizon—bone grafts, promising virus-treating chemicals from corals, and possible cancer treatments from reef-dwelling species—may be realized if healthy coral reefs can be sustained. Reefs are among the oldest communities of life on Earth and take thousands of years to grow into the immense and complex habitats we see today.
Corals Reefs are in Crisis
The news about coral reefs is alarming. Rapid warming, accelerating pollution, and destructive fishing are decimating corals faster than they can adapt for survival. Individually, each of these three top threats is devastating corals. Collectively, they are a "perfect storm." The damages inflicted by climate change make corals more susceptible to further degradation from pollution and fishing threats, and vice-versa.
Effective, science-based management can preserve, sustain, and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems for future generations. Making the most of limited resources and effecting maximum improvements to coral reef health requires us to prioritize on-the-ground and in-the-water actions that address the top three threats to coral reef ecosystems.
Climate Change Impacts
Warmer and more acidic oceans—a result of elevated greenhouse gases—cause mass bleaching in corals [c] and slow the growth of coral skeletons. [d] Action to reduce greenhouse gases is essential to corals' long-term survival. In the meantime, boosting the resilience of coral reef ecosystems and reducing local stresses are short-term bridges, necessary for keeping coral reef ecosystems intact until the overarching climate threat is alleviated.
Bottom trawl nets, blast fishing, cyanide fishing, and overexploitation of species essential for ecosystem balance are severely damaging coral reefs. Minimizing destructive impacts from fishing and achieving responsible, ecosystem-based stewardship of reef fisheries pays lasting dividends to healthy coral reefs and to fishing livelihoods.
Impacts from Land-based Sources of Pollution
Coral reefs suffer major impairments from sediment runoff and from surges in algal cover caused by nutrient pollution. Identifying and controlling land-based sources of pollution are a win for coral reefs and the water quality of watersheds draining to them.
NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is a cross-cutting program that brings together expertise from a wide array of NOAA programs and offices. In strong partnership with coral reef managers, the CRCP works to reduce harm to, and restore the health of, coral reefs, including deep-water corals, by addressing priority national threats and local management priorities through conservation activities.
The CRCP was established in 2000 to help fulfill NOAA's responsibilities under the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 (CRCA) and the Presidential Executive Order 13089 on Coral Reef Protection. The goal of the CRCP is to protect, conserve, and restore coral reef resources by maintaining healthy ecosystem function. The primary objective of the CRCP is to address strategic coral reef management needs in a targeted, cost-effective and efficient manner.
CRCP funds and equips reef conservation activities by NOAA and its partners in the seven U.S. states and jurisdictions containing coral reefs (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawai`i, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands), uninhabited islands including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Pacific Remote Island Areas, and internationally, including the Pacific Freely Associated States.
The program provides coral reef managers, scientists, and other users worldwide with information and forecasts of coral bleaching events using sea surface temperature data from satellites.
Citizens and government officials acting locally are our partners in improving coral reef health globally. CRCP provides information that empowers our public partners to act; for example, informative signs in coastal areas and distributing educational information to coastal businesses and the public.
Coral Reef Conservation Grants Programs—Between 2002 and 2009, NOAA awarded a total of over $50 million in matching grants for coral conservation projects.
Coral Reef Conservation Fund, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, builds public-private partnerships and leveraged NOAA's $4.7 million into more than $12 million for 140 projects in 28 countries.
To download the CRCP fact sheet, please click here.
CRCP serves as the Secretariat for the US Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF), which includes leaders of 12 Federal agencies, seven US states and jurisdictions, and Freely Associated States. To download the USCRTF fact sheet, please click here.
The NOAA Coral Reef Information System is home to all data, products, and publications generated by CRCP-funded projects.