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Introduction of the Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. BORDALLO. Madam Speaker, today I have reintroduced a bill to amend and reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. In the 110th Congress, I joined my colleague, Congressman ENI FALEOMAVAEGA of American Samoa, in introducing H.R. 1205, the ``Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2007'', which the House of Representatives passed by voice vote on October 22, 2007. The bill I have introduced today, with Congressman FALEOMAVAEGA and 15 other colleagues, strengthens H.R. 1205 without changing its original intent.

Conservation of coral reef ecosystems is essential to protect public health, promote environmental sustainability, and ensure long-term economic progress for the jurisdictions we represent in Congress. The sovereign waters of the United States off the coast of Guam, and in the Pacific region as a whole, contain a majority of the shallow-water coral reefs in the United States, as well as some of the world's greatest coral reef biodiversity. These reefs, and reefs around the world, protect us from storm waves, provide habitat and shelter for fisheries, provide food and recreation for our residents, and are the basis for marine tourism industries.

Today, however, various pressures on the world's reefs threaten to destroy them and the numerous ecosystem services that they provide. Unless the United States acts in conjunction with the global community to support focused, prolonged action on coral reef education, research, and management, the condition of our coral reefs will continue to degrade.

Since its enactment in 2000, the Coral Reef Conservation Act has stimulated a greater commitment to protect, conserve, and restore coral reef resources within jurisdictional waters of the United States. As a result, we now have a much better grasp of the condition of our coral reefs, and more focused management capability than at any time in our history. The Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009 would further strengthen the original legislation by establishing a new community-based planning grants program, by promoting international cooperation, and by recognizing the important contributions of the U.S. Department of the Interior in coral reef management and conservation efforts.

This bill would also codify the United States Coral Reef Task Force established in 1998 by President Clinton through Executive Order 13089. The work of the Task Force and its mission to coordinate the efforts of the United States in promoting conservation and the sustainable use of coral reefs internationally is vital to our interests. Since 1998, the Task Force has acted to facilitate and support better management and conservation of coral reef resources at the local level. Many beneficial efforts, such as the development and implementation of local action strategies to address threats to our reefs, are underway thanks to the work of the Task Force and its member agencies.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this legislation to enhance our capacity for the conservation and restoration of healthy and diverse coral reef ecosystems, our ``Rainforests of the Sea''.

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