The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation awarded seven grants totaling more than $2 million to support coral restoration in the four U.S. Pacific Island jurisdictions of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and Hawai’i. The grants are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The grants will support projects that directly contribute to coral restoration progression in the U.S. Pacific Islands by providing the means for capacity building and/or restoration implementation. The four U.S. Pacific Island jurisdictions started a coral restoration planning process in 2020 that led to the development of a draft action plan for each jurisdiction for one priority restoration goal. Now, additional investment and capacity is needed to meet the U.S. Pacific Islands coral restoration goals and implement the draft restoration action plans.
Tj Tate, Director of Conservation for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “Climate change and other pressures are having disastrous effects on coral reefs around the world, including the waters surrounding U.S. Pacific Islands. Marine heatwaves like the one occurring right now in the southeastern U.S. demonstrate the need to act now to implement the restoration needed to stem the tide of reef degradation. The Foundation is committed to working with our partners and NOAA and on the ground to achieve those goals and protect coral reefs.”
“NOAA is excited to support these grants for work that is critical to capacity building and implementation of restoration plans that were developed by each of the 4 U.S. Pacific coral reef jurisdictions. There is a growing need for coral restoration in the Pacific and these projects help to address that need,” said Carrie Selberg Robinson, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation.
Coral reef ecosystems are important to the livelihoods of people in the U.S. Pacific Islands and provide substantial economic value through coastal fisheries and tourism. They provide immense cultural value, including to Native Hawaiians and other indigenous groups in the Pacific, as well as coastal protection and recreational uses. However, reefs are declining due to stressors including climate change impacts such as bleaching and ocean acidification, land-based sources of pollution, overfishing, and intensive human uses in some areas.
“Innovative conservation incorporates Indigenous and local knowledge and wisdom into the protection and restoration of habitat and recovery of species and must be supported,” said Joel R. Johnson, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation president and CEO. “Restoring marine ecosystems, building local capacity in diverse communities, protecting biodiversity through sanctuary designation, like the Pacific Remote Islands, all contribute to the climate resiliency of our ocean and Great Lakes.”
Grant recipients include Johnston Applied Marine Science (JAMS); Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Division of Coastal Resources Management (CNMI DCRM); University of Guam Marine Laboratory; Guam Coral Reef Initiative; Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources (HI DLNR); University of Hawai’i at Hilo (Hawai’i Cooperative Fishery Research Unit), University of Hawai’i at Manoa (Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology), and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i; and SECORE International.
The projects funded will help transition the U.S. Pacific Island jurisdictions’ local prioritized reef sites identified in the draft restoration action plans from restoration planning into implementation, which will ultimately restore their ecological function and the benefits they provide to local communities.
The projects will take place through the Summer of 2025.