Draft Business Plan for U.S. Coral Reefs

The Coral Reef Ecosystem business plan describes a comprehensive 10 year strategy to guide NFWF’s conservation investments to achieve measurable results that will reverse the declining health trends and increase live coral cover on select reef systems in U.S. waters. In the most recent assessment about half of the coral reef resources in U.S. (including the Freely Associated States) were considered to be in poor or fair condition. In the Caribbean, only 25% of reefs are in good condition—live coral cover has declined to as low as 8% in some locations—and key reef-building species (Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis) were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. In the U.S. Pacific corals are faring better, with 69% of reefs reported to be in good or excellent condition.

Ultimately, the amount of coral that is alive is the most direct indicator of the health of coral reefs. Although every U.S. jurisdiction requires coral reef conservation investment, this business plan will focus initially on Puerto Rico as a pilot geography to test the logic and evaluation structure of the Foundation’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Initiative. As milestones for Puerto Rico are met and financial resources for investment increase, this business plan will be expanded to include activities for addi- tional geographies in the U.S.

The Foundation will focus initially on three sites to address key threats to Puerto Rican reefs: Culebra, Guanica/La Parguera, and Sardinera Bay. Recognizing that a strategy to increase live coral cover will be complex, this business plan describes a four-pronged approach to address the diversity of issues that need attention in order to promote an increase in live coral cover:

  1. Reduce land-based run-off of sediments, pollution and nutrients to coral systems;
  2. Increase herbivorous reef fish stocks through improved fisheries management;
  3. Reduce direct impacts to coral reefs from resource users through public education, outreach, better management and enforcement of restricted areas; and
  4. Increase real-time monitoring to conduct diagnostic assessments and monitoring to better measure success of conservation actions and track progress to goal.

It is estimated that a new investment of $10 million over 10 years in Puerto Rico is projected to produce a 30% increase in live coral cover. It is estimated that an investment of $80 million over 10 years would be needed to produce a 30% increase in live coral cover for the most significant sites at each location where reefs are currently in fair or poor condition throughout the United States. 

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