Omnibus Appropriations Bill Includes Support for Marine Sanctuaries

Published Dec 28, 2020 6:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Congress passed omnibus appropriations legislation to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2021 and provide economic relief to families, businesses, and communities due to COVID-19. The bill includes a total of $59.5 million for critical ocean conservation and education work within our national marine sanctuaries and $8.5 million for innovative coral restoration projects, including Mission: Iconic Reefs, an unprecedented effort to reverse the decades-long decline of one of America’s national treasures, the Florida Reef Tract. 


The bill also directs NOAA to initiate the designation of Papah?naumoku?kea as a national marine sanctuary. Currently a marine national monument, sanctuary status would enhance management and protection for this UNESCO natural and cultural World Heritage Site.


Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation released the following statement:


“National marine sanctuaries and monuments are our essential network of protected waters owned by every American, and we thank Congress for supporting their protection. 


“The aid that Congress is providing to Mission: Iconic Reefs comes at a critical time.  After decades of degradation caused by pollution, hurricanes, coral disease, marine debris, invasive and nuisance species, and increased human use, we risk losing this national treasure. In the last 40 years, healthy coral coverage in the Keys declined from more than 25 percent of reef habitat to only about 5 percent today. The funding will help community efforts to restore coral reefs.


“Papah?naumoku?kea protects one of the last pristine ocean environments on earth, preserves Native Hawaiian traditions for future generations and safeguards the remains of those lost during World War II’s Battle of Midway. Papah?naumoku?kea deserves all the protections of national marine sanctuary status, and we are grateful for Congress' direction to begin the designation process.”


In 2019, the Foundation released a study showing that economic activity generated in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is responsible for contributing $4.4 billion and 43,000 jobs across the state of Florida. Support for large-scale reef restoration is critical to the community and the environment. Last month, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA awarded a grant of $5 million through the National Coastal Resilience Fund to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Coral Restoration Foundation™ to restore Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven iconic reefs located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

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