NOAA's National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) launched a new data visualization tool on NOAA's Geoplatform for shallow tropical coral reef ecosystem data, which provides free and easy-to-access information on the status and trends of U.S. coral reefs.
The Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Area Community (PIMPAC) has developed species fact sheets on 30 finfish species that are common and important fisheries species in Micronesia. This information can help inform management measures to maintain healthy fisheries.
As corals in Dry Tortugas national park were being ravaged by an unprecedented disease, the NOAA-NFWF Coral Emergency Response Fund was used to quickly and efficiently implement intervention cruises that treated over 12,500 actively diseased corals, potentially saving up to 331,000 coral outplants.
Coral reef researchers and managers from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida met together in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the 2023 U.S. Regional Caribbean Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) Workshop. The workshop aimed to share information and experiences across the jurisdictions, improve coordination of U.S. Caribbean coral disease response efforts, and enhance collaboration on coral rescue and communications.
NOAA is committed to working with partners to save and restore the world’s coral reefs. To support this mission, we have recommended funding for one new project and have awarded continued funding to four ongoing, multi-year projects under the Ruth Gates Coral Restoration Innovation Grants. The 2023 recommended and awarded funding totals approximately $913,000. It will support projects that enhance coral resilience and improve the long-term success and efficiency of shallow-water coral reef restoration in a changing climate.
In the Florida Keys, the reef forms the foundation of the region's identity, providing habitat for ecologically and economically important species and drawing visitors seeking to dive, snorkel, and fish. All of these benefits rely on healthy coral reef ecosystems, but this reef, along with many of our reefs, is threatened by pollution, climate change, coral disease, and more. In response, Mission: Iconic Reefs is underway to change the trajectory of the health of seven iconic coral reefs in Florida.
The Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Area Community (PIMPAC) is a long-term capacity-building program and a community of managers collaborating to enhance protected area management in partnership with local communities in the Pacific. It was created in 2005 and provides capacity-building opportunities to community members and government and non-government staff from Hawaii, Guam, CNMI, American Samoa, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.
Similar to reefs around the world, the coral reefs of Hawai'i are being degraded and lost due to human impacts. This degradation decreases reef biodiversity, fisheries, and overall ecosystem health. On O'ahu in particular, reef health directly impacts economic livelihoods, through fisheries, biodiversity, tourism, and coastal protection. However, open ocean swells and an active fishing sector means restoration techniques must be tailored to the unique environment there. As a result, Kuleana Coral Restoration (KCR) was founded by fishers, surfers, and scientists to pair traditional knowledge with scientific techniques to restore West O'ahu reefs and cultivate reef resilience.
Coral reef conservation requires a multi-pronged approach from protection of pristine coral areas to restoration of significantly degraded areas. As part of their approach, coral managers need to have the ability to respond quickly to a disaster, be it natural or man-made. Hurricane relief funds and resources to respond to ship groundings come to mind. One very clear stressor that needs emergency help is coral disease, specifically Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in Florida and the Caribbean.
In February, we welcomed our 2023 Knauss fellow, Lexie Sturm. Lexie is sponsored by Florida Sea Grant and received her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Lexie's fascination with coral reefs started from a young age when she first learned how to snorkel (with arm floaties on because she still couldn't fully swim!).
Since 2006, the NOAA Restoration Center has performed restoration at 142 sites in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and reattached over 60,000 corals, many of which are listed as endangered or threatened.
While Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, seems remote, the coral reefs are threatened by bleaching and crown-of-thorn starfish outbreaks. To help corals recover from past events, corals are being grown in nurseries in Saipans lagoon and then outplanted on degraded reefs.
Bert Weeks, National Coral Reef Management Fellowship class of 2020-2021, was born and raised in Hawai'i on the Island of O'ahu and returned home after completing his master's degree at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. During his two-year fellowship, he worked at the State of Hawai'i Department of LandT and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). One of his focus areas was to improve coral restoration in Hawai'i through the creation of a state-wide coral restoration action plan.
As a Data and Information Manageme,nt Specialist for the Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS), I am used to looking at the results of a research project — after all files have been assembled into neatly organized "data packages". Everything can be done online, so we data managers rarely get a chance to leave the office for fieldwork like other scientists.
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the program is part of NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.