Reef Conservation Grants of $3.5

A Hawaii coral reef conservation project that encourages community involvement; reef fish protection research in Florida’s Dry Tortugas; and protection of the Bastimentos National Marine Park in Panama are just 3 of 29 coral reef conservation grants totaling more than $3.5 million that received U.S. government funding today.

Several funded projects will be supporting activities for the International Year of the Reef 2008 to raise awareness of the many threats facing coral reefs.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program funded the grants through the jointly managed Coral Reef Conservation Fund.

The grants will go to conservation organizations and local governments in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea to help prevent further negative impacts to coral reefs by educating local communities and improving management effectiveness.

“Healthy coral reefs provide the United States and thousands of communities around the world with food, jobs, shoreline protection, recreation and income worth billions of dollars each year.

However, many reefs are now seriously degraded,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

“These grants will help communities from the Caribbean to Micronesia protect and restore valuable coral reefs and the economies that depend on them,” he said.

Coral Fund projects build public-private partnerships, increase community awareness and provide solutions to localized threats to coral reefs and surrounding habitats.

Special emphasis is placed on projects demonstrating a hands-on, measurable approach to reducing land-based pollution, improving the management of coral reef protected areas or installing mooring buoys to protect reefs from anchor damage, NOAA said.

The 29 grants were awarded to projects in 11 countries, two U.S. territories, and three U.S. freely associated states.

The awards include $1.3 million in federal funds leveraged by an additional $2.2 million in matching contributions for a total of $3.5 million to be spent on projects.

Additional funding partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, targeting coral conservation in Hawaii.

“We’re pleased to support projects that address coral reef conservation across the globe for a seventh year,” said National Fish and Wildlife Foundation executive director Jeff Trandahl.

“These grants are designed to identify and address the greatest threats to these very important and fragile marine habitats, and develop measurable conservation outcomes in order to track their performance.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a nonprofit organization established by Congress in 1984 and dedicated to the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants, and the habitat on which they depend.

The Foundation creates partnerships between the public and private sectors to strategically invest in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Source: Environmental News Service