Every year, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force — created by Executive Order in 1998 to coordinate coral reef conservation activities among government agencies at the national and local level — holds a meeting in a jurisdiction with coral reef ecosystems. Last month, the task force held its 42nd meeting in Koror, Palau. The Republic of Palau, located in Oceania, is a Freely Associated State, or an independent nation that has a comprehensive agreement with the United States. All three Freely Associated States — Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands — are members of the task force.
Palau has many current and upcoming activities and achievements in conservation, making it an ideal and timely location for the meeting. In fact, Palau is the first nation to change its immigration laws for environmental protection. At entry, visitors sign a passport pledge to act in an ecologically responsible way. In 2018, Palau became the first country to impose a ban on sunscreen chemicals that studies have shown to be harmful to corals. The ban will go into effect in 2020.
Additionally, there’s the Micronesia Challenge, which is coming to an end in 2020. The challenge is a commitment by Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to effectively preserve at least 30 percent of nearshore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources across Micronesia. New targets will be developed for completion by 2030.
Finally, the Our Oceans conference will be held in Palau in 2020. The conference focuses on developing commitments and taking actions to maintain the sustainability of the oceans.
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.