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Schatz, Hirono Bill To Protect Hawai‘i’s Coral Reefs Passes The Senate

HONOLULU — Last night, the bipartisan Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, which wasauthored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), passed the Senate. This bill directs federal funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and local communities for the restoration and management of coral reef ecosystems. It also reauthorizes and modernizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000.

“Ocean warming and acidification have pushed our corals to the brink of extinction,” Senator Schatz said. “Time is running out, but we can save them if we act now. Our bill deploys federal resources to the local governments and community organizations that are in the water right now working to restore our reefs.”

“In Hawai‘i, healthy oceans and coral reefs are critical to our way of life,” Senator Hirono said. “This bipartisan bill provides much needed resources to help our communities preserve and improve coral ecosystem health, and includes my coral reef prize competition, a provision I have introduced over the last three Congresses. I am proud that the Senate has passed our bipartisan bill and look forward to seeing this become law.”

The Coral Reef Conservation Act, which expired more than 15 years ago, was designed to promote the conservation of our nation’s reefs. In recent years, the decline in the nation’s coral reefs has only become more severe. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act modernizes the approach to coral conservation by:

  • incentivizing increased state and local investment in coral reef management capacity;
  • strengthening NOAA’s Coral Reef program;
  • encouraging innovative public-private Coral Reef Stewardship Partnerships among agencies, research centers, and community stakeholders;
  • codifying and updating the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force;
  • ensuring that our national coral strategy is informed by a robust local stakeholder engagement process; and
  • allowing for emergency grants for coral disasters, among other measures.

First introduced in August 2019, the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and U.S. Representatives Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico).