U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) reintroduced the bipartisan Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2021. First introduced in August 2019, the bill would reauthorize and modernize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, strengthen NOAA’s Coral Reef program, and give innovative new tools and resources to the non-
federal partners who are closest to the crisis in American coral reefs: states, territories, and local communities. The bill unanimously passed the Senate in December 2020, but stalled in the House.
U.S. Representatives Darren Soto (R-FL), Ed Case (D-HI), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Brian Mast (R-FL), Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS) have introduced companion legislation in the House.
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 directs federal funding and technical assistance to states for the restoration and management of coral reef ecosystems, while incentivizing increased state and local investment in coral reef management capacity.
The bill encourages innovative public-private Coral Reef Stewardship Partnerships among agencies, research centers, and community stakeholders; codifies and updates the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force; ensures that our national coral strategy is informed by a robust local stakeholder engagement process; and allows for emergency grants for coral disasters, among other measures.
“I saw the devastated condition of our coral reefs firsthand when touring the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and I promised a comprehensive
response,” Rubio said. “This important bipartisan bill will ensure federal agencies are partnering effectively with state and local
governments, as well as the communities who rely on the vitality of these
critical habitats. I thank my Senate colleagues for passing my bill last
Congress, and I am hopeful that both the House and Senate can quickly approve this legislation so it can become law."
“Our Florida coral reefs are a national treasure that contain part of the most diverse ecosystems on earth,” Representative Soto said. “We’ve witnessed how the effects of climate change, overfishing, pollution and development have threatened the vitality of coral reefs around our coasts.
Protecting our environment, specifically preserving the precious habitats for marine life, should not have an expiration date. Our Florida way of life
depends on the health of our environment.”
"Ocean warming and acidification have pushed our corals to the brink of extinction,” 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.”