Half of US coral reefs in 'poor' or 'fair' condition, says NOAA report

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Washington, July 8 : Almost 50 percent of U.S. coral reef ecosystems are in 'poor' or 'fair' condition, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report.

The report has revealed that the nation's coral reef ecosystems, particularly those adjacent to populated areas, continue to face intense human-derived threats from coastal development, fishing, sedimentation and recreational use.

Even the most remote reefs are subject to threats such as marine debris, illegal fishing and climate-related effects of coral bleaching, disease and ocean acidification, according to the report.

"NOAA's coral program has made some significant progress since it was established 10 years ago, but we need to redouble our efforts to protect this critical resource," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the United States Coral Reef Task Force, said: "The report shows that this is a global issue."

"While the report indicates reefs in general are healthier in the Pacific than the Atlantic, even remote reefs are subject to threats stemming from climate change as well as illegal fishing and marine debris," he added.

According to the report's authors, the conditions of U.S. coral reefs have been declining for several decades.

As an indicator of this decline, since the last status report was released in 2005, two coral species - Elkhorn and Staghorn corals - have become the first corals ever listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The 2008 report is the third in a series, representing an evolving effort to track the condition of coral reef ecosystems at both local and national scales.

The 569-page document details coral reef conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Navassa Island, southeast Florida, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks, the Main Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, the Pacific Remote Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the Republic of Palau. The report was released by NOAA at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

ANI

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