October 13 2006
US Coral Reef Task Force
Comments to the Us Coral Reef Task Force
For years Cry of the Water, the Global Coral Reef Alliance, and a very widespread coalition of divers, fishermen, scientists, and environmentally concerned citizens have been begging the State of Florida to protect the best reefs left in Florida, in Broward County. This remarkable area has miles of reef with 30-40% live coral cover (compared to the Florida Keys reef tract’s 6% and rapidly falling), the largest stand of endangered Staghorn coral known to remain in the Caribbean Region, and large numbers of ancient corals. Amazingly, these beautiful and unique reefs, the only ones in the continental US that can be swum to from the beach, have no legal protection whatsoever, are not even designated as reef habitat, and have no management plan for their protection!
This is a glaring and embarrassing failure of the USCRTF’s mandate to protect all coral reefs in US waters. We have repeatedly formally requested the US Coral Reef Task Force to enforce the law under which they were constituted and require all their member agencies at Federal, State, and County level to stop approving projects that will degrade, damage, and destroy coral reefs. We have been stonewalled at every step, and Task Force members have told us privately that it is beyond their competence to even ask their own members to obey the law that set up the Task Force!
With millions of dollars of taxpayers money to dredging companies and their less than competent consultants, they will destroy marine resources that provide more than a billion dollars a year in economic benefits to the people of Broward County alone. Allowing this is a shameful fraud and coverup of the USCRTF’s abdication of responsibility under the law.
We urge you to save the last and best before it is too late. Once deliberate official inaction and denial kills our reefs they will be gone forever. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing, while EPA denies that sewage causes the algae blooms that kill corals, the Army Corps of Engineers denies that sediment kills corals, and NOAA denies that global warming kills corals.
The impacts of sedimentation on coral reefs have been known for over 150 years. The very first reef to be described by the first diving marine scientist (Ocho Rios in Jamaica by the late Prof. Thomas F. Goreau, where I learned to swim and dive as an infant) was destroyed by dredging before the very first description of reef zonation and ecology anywhere in the world could even be published. The impacts of high temperatures on coral reefs have been exhaustively documented since I developed the Coral Bleaching HotSpot method in 1990, which has been used to successfully predict the location, timing, and intensity of all major coral bleaching episodes worldwide before it can be seen in the field. The impacts of even small amounts of nutrients on coral reefs in causing bacterial and algal blooms that are killing South Florida reefs are clearly shown in my recent film, TOURISM, WATER QUALITY, AND CORAL REEF HEALTH, which can be viewed at http://www.globalcoral.org
In 2008 thousands of coral reef researchers from all over the world will come to Fort Lauderdale for the International Coral Reef Symposium. Either we will be able to show them that the United States is making serious efforts to protect its last remaining reefs, or we will sadly have to show them a dead reef, killed through irresponsible dredging, sewer releases to the ocean, and uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions, which were approved and permitted by every Federal, State, and County Agency that should have had responsible oversight over our natural resources and led the fight to protect them from deliberate harm.
Future generations and the scientific community will bitterly blame those in power who allowed these unique natural treasures to be destroyed through willful neglect. If you do not act NOW it will be too late!
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance