NOAA’s Vision for Thriving, Diverse, and Resilient Coral Reef Ecosystems
from The Fishing Wire
A lively reef in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Hawaii (Baker Island). Credit: Jeff Milisen.
NOAA has released a new Coral Reef Conservation Program Strategic Plan (PDF, 7.31 MB), which will guide the program’s future coral research, conservation, and restoration efforts from 2018 to 2040.
We all depend on coral reefs for something—from the air we breathe and some of the foods we eat to medical treatments. The nation’s coral reef resources also protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure. Today, many of our coral reefs have been severely damaged by a number of threats. There is still time to protect and restore these remarkable ecosystems, but we must act now.
The new Strategic Plan outlines a targeted framework to reduce the main threats to coral reefs ecosystems: 1) climate change; 2) fishing impacts; and 3) land-based sources of pollution. In addition to addressing these top three threats, the plan also recognizes coral reef restoration as an important new focus and the fourth “pillar” of the program.
By implementing strategies specific to each of these four “pillars,” the Coral Reef Conservation Program is working to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species in target areas by 2040.
SUMMARIZING THE STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CORAL REEF CONSERVATION PROGRAM
Coral reefs protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure, yet these ecosystems are under constant threat, regularly experiencing both chronic stress and episodes of severe damage. The strategic plan for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program defines ways to reduce the three main threats to coral ecosystems—climate impacts, unsustainable fishing, and land-based sources of pollution—and incorporates a newly added programmatic focus, coral restoration. The four focus areas, or pillars, of the strategic plan are outlined below.
VISION Thriving, diverse, resilient coral reefs that sustain valuable ecosystem services for current and future generations.
Increase resilience to climate change Strategy 1. Support a resilience-based management approach
Improve fisheries’ sustainability Strategy 1. Provide data essential for coral reef fisheries management Strategy 2. Build capacity for coral reef fisheries management
Reduce land-based sources of pollution Strategy 1. Develop, coordinate, and implement watershed management plans Strategy 2. Build and sustain watershed management capacity at the local level
Restore viable coral populations Strategy 1. Improve coral recruitment habitat quality Strategy 2. Prevent avoidable losses of corals and their habitat Strategy 3. Enhance population resilience Strategy 4. Improve coral health and survival
A resilience-based management approach is guiding these investments, with measurable long-term conservation goals set for 2040. By implementing strategies specific to each pillar, the program is increasing the nation’s capacity to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral populations, coral recruitment habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species.
Collaboration is critical. While the plan guides investments in the near term, it is ambitious and covers far more work than one program can achieve. To increase overall success, the plan identifies opportunities to create partnerships across the conservation community.