More than $8.4 million in grants and cooperative agreements has been awarded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program this year to support conservation projects and scientific studies that benefit coral reef management across seven U.S. states and territories, the Caribbean and Micronesia.
NOAA said all projects focus on the three primary threats to coral reefs: global climate change, land-based sources of pollution and unsustainable fishing practices, as well as priority coral reef regions and watersheds.
Funded projects include grants to reduce sediment and improve water quality in U.S Virgin Islands, work with communities in Hawaii to address threats to coral reefs, support coral reef ecosystem conservation in Puerto Rico and strengthen outreach and education efforts.
Projects also include work to assess coral reef resiliency to climate change in multiple locations. Earlier this year, NOAA declared the third global coral bleaching event, an event leading to the loss of huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally. While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching is often lethal, especially when combined with other threats.
“Healthy coral reefs are important to all of us. They provide billions of dollars in income, and coastal protection and resiliency to communities around America and other goods and services. Conservation of these resources is a key factor in the resilience of coastal communities,” said Jennifer Koss, director of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. “The projects funded through NOAA’s grants program allow us to strengthen our ties with local partners, address the most pressing threats to corals, and broaden our conservation efforts.”
Coral Reef Conservation Program awards fall into five broad categories:
State and Territorial Cooperative Agreements that sustain coral reef management and monitoring in the states and territories of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Fishery Management Council Agreements to improve sustainable coral fisheries management in cooperation with managing agencies.
Domestic Coral Reef Conservation Grants that address key coral reef issues and scientific gaps identified by local management agencies and partners.
International Coral Reef Conservation Cooperative Agreements to build local coral reef management capacity and support coral reef monitoring.
Competitive Awards made to partner organizations, as well as a public-private partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Nearly half of the funds awarded this year directly support coral reef conservation projects led by state and territorial resource management agencies. Other conservation projects are led by non-governmental organizations, community groups and academic partners. A limited number of international projects focused in Micronesia, Mesoamerica and the wider Caribbean region were also supported.
“It's exciting to fund smart and innovate projects led by partners who are working across disciplines to make a positive impact on the condition of the world's coral reefs,” said Jenny Waddell, coordinator of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program’s grants portfolio. “There are surely a lot of challenges ahead for coral reefs, but by studying, managing and conserving them in a collaborative way, we are all helping ensure coral reefs continue to survive and thrive.”
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program awarded nearly $103 million of federal funding through competitive funding opportunities since 2002.
Beginning in 2000, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to cooperatively fund priority coral conservation projects, and to seek additional investment from other federal agencies, industry and private donors whenever possible.
All proposals submitted for funding underwent extensive and rigorous technical review before final decisions were reached. The program anticipates making a similar amount of federal funding available in fiscal year 2016.