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WTAS: Rubio’s Bipartisan, Bicameral Coral Reef Legislation Receives Widespread Praise

Nov 13, 2019 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) bipartisan, bicameral Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 has received widespread praise from government leaders, the business community, conservation groups, environmental advocacy groups, and research experts. A summary of the bill is available here and a section by section is available here.

Government Leaders

“Florida depends on our coral reefs. Not only are they essential to the health of our marine ecosystem, they are vital to coastal resiliency, stand as the first line of defense against storm surge in Southeast Florida and play a key role in our tourism economy,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “I applaud Senator Rubio’s advocacy for this important resource and look forward to the opportunity this support would provide to help preserve, sustain and restore the condition of Florida’s coral reefs.”

“The health of Florida’s reefs safeguard our state against extreme weather, shoreline erosion, and coastal flooding,” said Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “DEP is fully committed to supporting coral rehabilitation efforts such as the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act. Looking ahead, we want to know we have done everything in our power to address this problem for generations to come.”

“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is a solution to a very real problem,” said Robert Spottswood, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Florida’s precious coral reef tract is in dire need of restoration and rehabilitation. We are running out of time and are in danger of losing this wonderful natural resource. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act would create unique partnerships by allowing local, state, and federal government officials to work with the best and brightest minds from nonprofit organizations in a collaborative effort to tackle this problem immediately and save our coral reef tract.”

“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 would provide critical support to conserve and restore Hawaii’s coral reefs at a time when predictions indicate Hawaii is headed toward another major coral bleaching event this summer,” said Suzanne Case, Chairperson of the Hawai’i Board of Land and Natural Resources. “Coral reefs provide a wide range of cultural, ecological and economic benefits. Also, reefs provide vital shoreline protection for Hawaii, which is especially relevant now during hurricane season. This legislation provides the critical tools, funding and a pathway for implementing the best science and management actions to support the persistence and restoration of coral reefs.”

“Coral reef preservation and restoration is vital not only to our environment and our economy, but also in ensuring coastal resiliency,” said state Representative Holly Raschein. “Restoring and maintaining this precious and unique ecosystem has never been more important, and I strongly support Senator Rubio’s Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019.”

“We greatly appreciate the attention of Senator Rubio and his staff on the issue of coral reefs,” said Doug Smith, County Commissioner for Martin County. “Our reef ecosystems are critical to Florida and Martin County and this legislation will focus renewed federal attention on the challenges our reef systems face. The legislation will provide increased funding each year, direct more money to locals for critical projects, continue support for NOAA staff who provide vital technical support, and establish an emergency fund to help us respond to coral threats. I applaud the Senator for tackling these issues in an innovative way and look forward to working with him further to help this legislation become law.”

“We greatly appreciate Senator Rubio’s leadership on the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act,” said Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Administrator. “Coral reef protection and restoration is of utmost importance to Monroe County. The Florida Keys’ coral reef is part of one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world. It is not only a national environmental treasure, it is also an important economic driver. Reauthorization ensures that our coral reef continues to receive the funding and attention it deserves.”

“We appreciate the efforts of Senator Rubio and his staff on the issue of coral reefs,” said Lee Hefty, Director of Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). “Florida’s coral reefs, and in particular Florida’s Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area, are critical to the state’s and Miami-Dade County’s tourism economy, vibrant ecosystems, and shoreline resilience. This legislation will focus renewed federal attention on the challenges facing coral reef ecosystems by providing increased funding each year, directing more money to local agencies for critical projects, and establishing an emergency fund to help agencies respond to coral threats, among other types of support for reef resilience. Given recent action by the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners per Resolution R-1194-18 urging federal and state regulators to increase their efforts to investigate and solve the disease outbreak killing coral along the Florida reef tract, Resolution R-1091-17 urging the Florida Legislature to enact legislation that would create the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Protection Area, and Resolution R-523-17 urging President Donald Trump and the US Congress to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, Miami-Dade County applauds the Senator for addressing the issue of coral reef health and resilience and fully supports the passing of the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act into law.”

“The South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils, representing the Southeast Florida region of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties, would like to extend the Councils’ sincere gratitude and support to Senator Rubio for his leadership to protect the Florida Reef Tract and its endangered coral reef system,” said Isabel Cosio Carballo and Tom Lanahan, Executive Directors of the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils. “This legislation to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act is of critical importance to our nation’s fisheries, economy, and community resilience.  A top priority for the Councils, Florida, and particularly the Southeast Florida region, we look forward to working with Senator Rubio, his staff, and Florida’s congressional delegation to ensure passage of this urgently needed legislation.”

Business Community

“Saltwater recreational fishing contributes $68 billion annually to the economy, supporting 472,000 jobs, and coral reefs are essential habitat for many recreationally important fisheries,” said Mike Leonard, Vice President of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “However, our reefs are in significant decline due to a variety of stressors, including deteriorating water quality, changing ocean conditions, invasive species, coral bleaching and coral disease.  We appreciate the efforts of Senators Rubio and Schatz to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act to actively address the urgent needs of these important ecosystems.”

“The FKCFA commends Senator Marco Rubio for recognizing the value of healthy reef habitat to Florida’s commercial fishing and seafood industry, tourism and our coastal communities throughout the Florida Keys,” said Captain Bill Kelly, Executive Director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association. “The Senator’s Restoring Resilient Reefs Act provides opportunities for st?akeholders to engage in the coral conservation process and will lead to increased scientific information that can be used to effectively manage our coral habitat for future generations.”

“We applaud Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Brian Schatz for their leadership on tackling critical problems with our coral reef ecosystems so future generations can continue to enjoy these astonishing treasures,” said Nicole Vasilaros, Senior Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Protecting our oceans and restoring coral reefs are top recreational boating industry priorities and we encourage all members of Congress to support this much needed legislation.”

Conservation Groups

“Our aquariums are proud to support the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act. We thank Senator Schatz and Senator Rubio for introducing this important ocean conservation legislation, which will advance critical protection and restoration efforts for coral reefs—some of the most diverse, valuable, and fragile ecosystems on Earth,” said Dr. Amber Whittle, on behalf of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership. “Like all marine life, ocean corals are under increasing threat, especially from warming temperatures and acidification. This bill represents U.S. leadership in sustaining ocean resources for future generations.”

“Worldwide, coral reef ecosystems are under enormous threat, and leadership has never been more necessary,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “As an organization that is currently assisting in the Florida Reef Tract rescue initiative, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its 236 accredited zoo and aquarium members applaud Senators Rubio and Schatz and stand with them in supporting this crucial legislation.”

“The Florida Aquarium is proud to support the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act,” said Roger Germann, President & CEO of The Florida Aquarium. “The Aquarium’s successful and unique coral restoration program, focused on growing genetically diverse corals, is in perfect sync with the bill’s goals. We thank Senators Rubio and Schatz for introducing this legislation and look forward to supporting its passage.”

“Mystic Aquarium enthusiastically supports the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, which aligns with our coral reef conservation efforts, and represents a critical step towards addressing the coral reef crisis at the scale and scope necessary to succeed, particularly given warming trends and associated impacts,” said Dr. Peter Auster, Senior Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium. “We applaud Senators Rubio and Schatz for introducing this legislation and stand ready to support its passage.”

“Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth,” said Bridget Coughlin, President and CEO of Shedd Aquarium. “Shedd Aquarium proudly supports the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act that will help accelerate wider protections, restoration, and innovative interventions to protect coral reefs for generations to come. Shedd’s coral research program is helping to inform best management practices for this vital aquatic habitat and we applaud Senators Schatz and Rubio for taking actions to advance this critical legislation.”

Environmental Advocacy Groups

“Coral reefs are struggling under a variety of threats, not the least of which is warming water due to human-caused climate change,” said Andres Jimenez, Senior Director for Government Affairs for Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “We have a responsibility to bring this natural wonder back from the brink of extinction and restore it to health, and the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act will help make that happen. We are happy to see bipartisan support of this important effort in both chambers of Congress.”

“Coral reefs are treasures of our nation, but they are rapidly disappearing from a range of threats,” said Rachel Silverstein, Executive Director of Miami Waterkeeper. “We are happy that this bipartisan bill aims to restore this diverse resource and the clean water economy that comes with it.”

“We’re thrilled to see Senators Rubio and Schatz take a leadership role on coral health,” said Jeff Watters, Senior Director of Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy. “By developing a resilience strategy and authorizing federal funds for coral reef resilience work, the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is a big step forward in the effort to restore and conserve our coral reefs. Coral reefs provide critical habitat for marine wildlife and valuable tourism opportunities, supporting our coastal communities and a healthy marine ecosystem. Ocean Conservancy is pleased to support this legislation.”
Research Experts

“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 is an important and timely development that has the support of Coral Restoration Foundation,” said Dr. R. Scott Winters, CEO of the Coral Restoration Foundation. “The integrated approach proposed by this important bill reflects the complex nature of the issues facing our Nation’s coral reefs and the communities that depend on them. We applaud the Senators’ vision in addressing this urgent issue with such rigor, and we would urge policymakers to understand that this is a critical step in the right direction, heralding new hope for an ecosystem – and those that depend upon – that currently faces an uncertain future.”

“Our coral reefs are in a state of crisis,” said Dr. Andréa G. Grottoli, President of the International Coral Reef Society. “The impact of climate change and local pollution are decimating the very foundation of these incredible ecosystems. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is a step in the right direction for protecting our coral reefs, and the numerous economic, cultural and ecological benefits they provide. The future of our coral reefs and of our coastal communities depends on legislation like this one.”

“We applaud Senators Marco Rubio and Brian Schatz for their commitment to an environmental emergency plaguing one of our Nation’s most precious natural resources and economic drivers, our coral reefs,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. “In Florida, our reef tract is suffering from significant threats, including rising ocean temperatures, decreasing pH, and a devastating disease. As a result, we are witnessing our coral reefs slipping into functional extinction and it is clear that a natural recovery is simply not possible. We have been honored to work with Senator Rubio to highlight the urgency of this catastrophe, and we are so grateful that he has responded with action by introducing a bill that will support science-based solutions focused on coral resiliency with strategic restoration at large scales, provide for emergency response funds and make available block grants to states.”

“The introduction of the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is an extremely important step in providing the federal resources required to help address these issues,” said Dr. Richard E. Dodge, Dean of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern University. “The situation is urgent, and appreciations are due Senator Rubio and Senator Schatz for their diligent work to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act and to give these priceless ecosystems the attention that they require and deserve. The bill provides additional funding and mechanisms to help support management driven research focused on coral reef conservation and sustainability. As a scientist long dedicated to coral reefs, I thank you for introducing this legislation and look forward to working with you as you move forward to pass this bill.”