Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $1.3 million in grants to support efforts to improve the health and resilience of coral reefs in Florida, Hawai’i, Guam, and America Samoa. The grants will generate $1.3 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $2.6 million.
The grants were awarded through the Coral Reef Conservation Fund (CRCF), a 23-year conservation partnership between NFWF and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), with major funding for a fourth year from Aramco Americas and additional support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“This slate of projects funds capacity building and training for large-scale coral restoration, innovation in coral reef recovery methods, and threat reduction projects that help coral reefs throughout coastal areas in this country better withstand and recover from natural disasters and other environmental stressors,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF.
The projects supported by the nine grants announced today will address NFWF’s three primary focus areas that help to protect functioning and resilient coral reef systems in an increasingly urbanized and changing coastal environment:
- Increasing the resiliency of ecologically important reefs by reducing human-based threats including land-based sources of pollution and from overfishing
- Capacity building and active restoration efforts to restore degraded reefs
- Investing in innovation and tools for managers to increase their decision-making power
“These coral conservation projects in the Pacific and Atlantic regions will help communities increase the resilience of their coral reefs,” said Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. “As we have seen from recent coral emergencies, like the current bleaching event in Florida and the Caribbean, the future of coral conservation now includes being responsive to disasters. Building capacity for coral restoration and rescue currently will help us with the long-term recovery of these incredible ecosystems.”
“Hawai’i’s coral reefs are threatened by a combination of stressors including vessel damage, marine debris, coastal development, pollution runoff, and sedimentation from terrestrial sources caused by impacts such as wildfires or overgrazing by axis deer,” said J.B. Martin, director of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Pacific Islands Area. “Reefs are parts of important ecosystems that support ocean life, protect coastal shores from the erosive power of waves, and provide an important source of food and recreation for our people,” he said. “NRCS contributes to coral reef protection by promoting sound management of agricultural, grazed and forested lands, thereby minimizing delivery of sediments and pollution from island watersheds into our near-shore ocean waters.”
This year’s Coral Reef Conservation Fund grant recipients include:
- Coral Restoration Foundation, Inc. ($103,200) will provide coral restoration education to practitioners in American Samoa. Project will provide theoretical and practical skills in restoration techniques and infrastructure needs to start and sustain programs including planning, fundraising, and outreach.
- University of Florida ($200,000) will increase genetic diversity and number of Acropora corals and Diadema sea urchins available for restoration efforts. Project will increase the supply of genetic combinations of Acropora corals to manage breeding efforts and establish partnerships to expand available capacity for Diadema propagation.
- Mote Marine Laboratory, Inc. ($254,300) will integrate digital tools for large-scale coral restoration. Project will identify key data and metrics for tracking within and among coral nurseries and post outplanting efforts to facilitate coordination among the restoration community.
- Association of Zoos and Aquarium ($75,000) will train aquarium managers interested in participating in the coral rescue program on stony coral tissue loss disease and coral restoration practices. Project will work to grow the land-based nursery management capacity of the coral conservation community within and outside of the U.S.
- The University of Guam ($124,800) will assess the vulnerability and status of surgeonfishes and parrotfishes on Guam. Project will combine life-history data, fishery-dependent data, and fishery-independent surveys to support local managers in the ongoing development of fishery management plans.
- Guam Department of Agriculture ($149,000) will produce an updated Asan-Piti Watershed Management Plan to establish water quality targets, best management practices, and proposed actions. Project will update the watershed management plan to support Guam coral reef restoration and fisheries in the Piti Bomb Holes Marine Protected Area.
- University of Hawai’i ($78,400) will evaluate recent emergency coral restoration response to improve effectiveness and efficiency of emergency activities. Project will monitor and evaluate restoration response of the transfer of 5,000 coral colonies transplanted as mitigation of a dredging event.
- Malama Haleakala Foundation ($119,900) will utilize reclaimed wastewater to reestablish groundcover and mitigate for axis deer damage and subsequent erosion. Project will prevent an estimated 722,371 pounds of sediment and 18,245 pounds of nutrients from entering coastal waters annually.
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ($194,500) will optimize the acoustic environment as sound like a healthy coral reef to attract coral larvae settlement as a restoration tool. Project will conduct lab and field tests to replicate a successful pilot in the Caribbean on Pacific coral species.
Since 2000, the Coral Reef Conservation Fund has made 408 awards to coral conservation projects with $24 million in federal and non-federal funds which leveraged more than $30 million in matching funds for a total conservation impact of $54 million. A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the Coral Reef Conservation Fund is available here.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at nfwf.org.
About the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Learn more at www.noaa.gov.
About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.
About Aramco Americas
Aramco Services Company (d/b/a Aramco Americas) is a U.S.-based subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, a world leader in integrated energy and chemicals, and has had a presence in the U.S. for more than 60 years. Aramco Americas is a contributor to the U.S. energy sector through research and development, venture fund activities, asset ownership, as well as technology and digital transformation. The company is headquartered in Houston, and maintains offices in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, and Detroit. Aramco Americas is committed to being a positive contributor in the communities where its employees live and work, and to making a difference through outreach that benefits the arts, geosciences, education and the environment. Please visit americas.aramco.com to learn more.