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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I thank my good friend for yielding me the time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 860, the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act. In addition to having the tremendous honor of representing the Florida Keys here in the United States Congress, I'm also pleased to boast that my district is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Nation, if not the world. The waters surrounding my district, Florida's 18th Congressional District, is home to America's only living barrier coral reef, which is also the second-largest coral reef tract in the world. The bill before us today, H.R. 860, would continue the Federal Government's efforts to protect and preserve the coral reef systems in the Florida Keys as well as in Hawaii and in Guam.
Coral reefs provide many economic, environmental and cultural benefits, particularly in my home district, where tourism brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. As the reefs sustain more damage every day, the tourism and ecosystem they help to maintain are threatened. This bill, in particular, will increase Federal oversight over the monitoring and rehabilitation efforts of our coral reef system while also promoting community-based conservation initiatives. In effect, local stakeholders and Federal agencies will work together to develop regionally approved and appropriate management plans.
One of the most important ways that this bill will help to protect coral reefs is by authorizing emergency responses to the physical damages that are sustained by coral reefs due to vessel groundings and impacts from derelict fishing gear. Having the distinct pleasure of taking part in two scuba diving missions to the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory in the Florida Keys, I witnessed just how important our coral reefs are not only to the environment but also for the education of our young people. In today's hyperlinked world, elementary students from Idaho can tune in to educational broadcasts on the dangers of coral bleaching and offshore drilling by the aquanauts working in the Aquarius. During one of my two visits to Aquarius, I had the pleasure of participating in a live question-and-answer session with local elementary school students on the issue of coral reef preservation.
Coral reefs are important to all Americans, not just to those of us who are fortunate enough to live in coastal areas. That is why I join my colleagues here today in strong support of H.R. 860, a bill which reaffirms the role of our Federal Government in protecting these precious coral resources for today and tomorrow's generations. Thank you for the time, my good friend from Utah, and I thank my wonderful friend from Guam, once again, for fighting for our Nation's environment.
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