Coral reefs, often called "rainforests of the ocean" are delicate, vital, and threatened natural resources. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is raising awareness on the importance coral reefs play in our ocean environment. Andy Winer is NOAA's Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. He says coral reefs face three main threats:
"Climate change is causing bleaching of corals and that's a huge issue. We're also looking at over-fishing and depleting the coral reefs of fish, which are a necessary part of having healthy corals. And then the last thing is land-based pollution and land-based contaminates which are washing into the ocean and causing damage to coral reefs."
NOAA and other U.S. government agencies are working domestically through the U.S. Coral Reef Taskforce, co-chaired by Mr. Winer. He notes the U.S. is using satellite observation technology to better forecast and minimize the effect of climate change on coral reefs. NOAA is also working with farmers and others to lessen the impacts of land-based pollutants on coral reefs downstream.
Internationally, the United States, led by the U.S. Department of State, participates in the International Coral Reef Initiative, or ICRI. ICRI is a partnership among governments, international organizations, and civil society that strives to preserve and promote stronger protection for coral reef ecosystems.
The U.S. Department of State, USAID, NOAA, and other U.S. government agencies and NGOs also support the Coral Triangle Initiative", or CTI, a cooperative effort by six governments of the Coral Triangle Area of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, working together with numerous partners. The CTI aims to safeguard the region’s exceptional marine and coastal biological resources for the food security, sustainable growth and prosperity of the region’s 363 million people.
"The United States has provided funding and expertise to that part of the world in order to make sure that we understand the problems that are impacting corals in that critical habitat, and also providing the kind of information and funding necessary to reverse some of the problems that are being caused."
Mr. Winer says coral reef protection is becoming an increasingly important part of President Barack Obama's national ocean policy.