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International Year of the Reef

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

International Year of the Reef

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to express my support of H. Res. 1112, a resolution recognizing 2008 as the International Year of the Reef.

I have the great honor of representing the Florida Keys, an area rich in natural wonders including two national parks, four national wildlife refuges, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary--one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the Nation. The natural and cultural resources and environmental setting of the area make it among the most diverse in North America. Within the surrounding waters are resources deserving of special consideration and protection, including America's only living barrier coral reef.

This designation is part of a global effort to raise public awareness of the value of coral reefs, the significance of the threats faced by coral reef systems, and to mobilize action to develop and implement innovative solutions and strategies to protect and conserve these important natural resources. Coral reef systems provide economic, environmental, and cultural benefits to millions of people around the world and are vital in protecting shorelines and supporting coastal economies. Coral reefs are some of the most valuable and spectacular places on earth. Covering less than 1 percent of the planet's surface, coral reefs and their associated mangrove, sea grass, and other habitats are the world's most biologically diverse marine ecosystems.

Last September, I had the distinct opportunity of participating in a dive to the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory in the Florida Keys. While in Aquarius, I participated in a live, underwater question and answer session with schoolchildren on topics such as coral reef conservation and the dangers of offshore drilling. This visit demonstrated how the Aquarius facility plays a direct role in improving our youngsters' understanding and appreciation of the marine environment.
As part of my passion for preserving the environment, I am proud to serve as co-Chair of the National Marine Sanctuary Caucus along with my colleague Congresswoman Lois Capps. The National Marine Sanctuary Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of Members dedicated to increasing awareness and strengthening commitment to our Nation's cherished marine sanctuaries. The caucus promotes understanding of how national marine sanctuaries help to safeguard our natural heritage and economic well-being. It also serves to inform local communities about the importance of maintaining these ecosystems for future generations to enjoy, educates Members of Congress on the importance of sanctuary protection and management, and ensures that adequate resources are directed to foster and restore these vital habitats.

I would like to also take this time to recognize the incredible National Marine Sanctuary officials in my district, including Billy Causey and Commander Dave Score, as well as Sanctuary System Director Dan Basta, for all of their work on behalf of our underwater ecosystems.

Once again, I would like to express my support for designating 2008 as the International Year of the Reef. Through this designation, it is my hope that it will encourage further research and development efforts to preserve coral reefs around the world.

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