On August 2, 2019, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) plus Representatives Darren Soto (D-FL) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) introduced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019.
This legislation—which is both bipartisan and bicameral—would reauthorize and modernize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000.
“I saw the devastated condition of our coral reefs firsthand when touring the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in February, and I promised a comprehensive response,” Rubio said. “This important bipartisan bill will ensure federal agencies are partnering effectively with state and local governments, as well as the communities who rely on the vitality of these critical habitats. Florida’s Reef Tract is an integral component of the economic and ecological character of Florida, and the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 will ensure future generations will be able to enjoy this natural wonder.”
The Coral Reef Conservation Act, which expired 15 years ago, was designed to promote the conservation of our nation’s reefs. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act authorizes five years of directed federal funding and technical assistance to states for the restoration and management of coral reef ecosystems, encourages innovative new Coral Reef Stewardship Partnerships among resource management agencies, research centers, and community stakeholders, and codifies and updates the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.
Additional original cosponsors of the House bill include Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
Co-sponsors, and other leaders from all around the nation, praised the bill:
“From never-before-seen levels of bleaching in the Pacific, to unprecedented devastation from disease in the Atlantic, coral reefs need urgent help. Our bill gives local governments and communities the federal resources to help save Hawaii’s corals,” Schatz said.
“People from across the world come to Florida because of the state’s natural beauty. During my eight years as Governor, Florida’s annual investments to preserve the environment increased by $1 billion to make sure future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer. Today, I’m proud to join Senator Rubio, Senator Schatz, Senator Hirono and our colleagues in the House to introduce the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019, which will build on our efforts and help restore and protect our coral reef ecosystems,” Scott said.
“Coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services to not only our oceans, but also to our island and coastal communities. The long-term ecological and economic impacts of coral bleaching pose serious threats to our way of life,” Hirono said. “The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act would provide important tools to preserve and sustain the condition of our coral reef ecosystems through community-based management programs. Our bill is a step in the right direction to ensuring that communities that depend on healthy oceans, like those in Hawaii, have the resources they need for protecting coral reefs.”
“Our Florida coral reefs are a national treasure that contain part of the most diverse ecosystems on earth,” Soto said. “We’ve witnessed how the effects of climate change, overfishing, pollution, and development have threatened the vitality of coral reefs around our coasts. Protecting our environment, specifically preserving the precious habitats for marine life, should not have an expiration date. That’s why this bipartisan legislation is key to reauthorizing existing federal programs and continue the desperately needed programs halting deterioration of coral reefs. Floridians’ quality and way of life are dependent on the health of our environment.”
“I firmly believe in the need to restore and preserve our natural resources, including reef ecosystems. Reefs serve as natural barriers against storms and flooding thus working as a shield to our coastal zones. Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused huge devastation in Puerto Rico but we must continue to recover and ensure we take preventive measures for future weather events. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act would provide the necessary assessment, reporting and funding needed to ensure rapid response to help protect vulnerable coral reefs in the event of another natural disaster,” González-Colón said.
“Florida depends on our coral reefs. Not only are they essential to the health of our marine ecosystem, they are vital to coastal resiliency, stand as the first line of defense against storm surge in Southeast Florida and play a key role in our tourism economy,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “I applaud Senator Rubio’s advocacy for this important resource and look forward to the opportunity this support would provide to help preserve, sustain and restore the condition of Florida’s coral reefs.”
“The health of Florida’s reefs safeguard our state against extreme weather, shoreline erosion, and coastal flooding,” said Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “DEP is fully committed to supporting coral rehabilitation efforts such as the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act. Looking ahead, we want to know we have done everything in our power to address this problem for generations to come.”
“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is a solution to a very real problem,” added Robert Spottswood, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Florida’s precious coral reef tract is in dire need of restoration and rehabilitation. We are running out of time and are in danger of losing this wonderful natural resource. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act would create unique partnerships by allowing local, state, and federal government officials to work with the best and brightest minds from nonprofit organizations in a collaborative effort to tackle this problem immediately and save our coral reef tract.”
“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 would provide critical support to conserve and restore Hawaii’s coral reefs at a time when predictions indicate Hawaii is headed toward another major coral bleaching event this summer. Coral reefs provide a wide range of cultural, ecological and economic benefits. Also, reefs provide vital shoreline protection for Hawaii, which is especially relevant now during hurricane season. This Legislation provides the critical tools, funding and a pathway for implementing the best science and management actions to support the persistence and restoration of coral reefs,” concluded Suzanne Case, Chair of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Photo of healthy (except for invasive lion fish) reef in Bonaire via Adobe Stock.