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Schatz Bill To Restore And Conserve Hawai‘i’s Coral Reefs Passes Key Senate Committee

New Report Shows Widespread Coral Bleaching Across Hawai‘i; Legislation Would Provide New Federal Funds To Help States Manage Coral Reefs

WASHINGTON – The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the committee, that would help restore Hawai‘i’s coral reefs.

“With the widespread threats to coral reefs across Hawai‘i growing, we need to do more to help states and communities fight back,” said Senator Schatz. “My bill will make federal funding available so that more local governments and organizations have the resources they need to save their reefs.”

A new report found widespread coral reef bleaching across the state, including more than 75 percent of corals off West Maui and 80 percent of corals off Kau on Hawai‘i Island.

Schatz’s legislation would increase federal funding for corals by nearly $10 million, bringing the total amount to $35 million over five years. The increased funding would support the following new initiatives:

  • New Coral Block Grants which would allow states like Hawai‘i to apply for funding to meet the priorities they have set for restoration and management of their own coral reefs.
  • Coral Reef Stewardship Partnerships. This program would allow communities to partner with a state or territorial resource management agency like the Department of Land and Natural Resources to develop a customized management plan, and compete for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding.
  • Pacific and Atlantic Coral Reef Institutes. NOAA would allow universities and state governments to team up and compete to become one of two Coral Reef Institutes—one for the Pacific, and one for the Atlantic.