Sharing the Nationwide Task of Coral Reef Conservation

Coral colony showing signs of stony coral tissue loss disease
A small colony of Great Star coral showing signs of stony coral tissue loss disease. (Florida Department of Environmental Protection)

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force - created by Executive Order in 1998 to coordinate coral reef conservation activities among government agencies at the national and local level - recently held its 41st meeting in Washington, DC. The meeting, co-chaired by NOAA and Department of the Interior leadership, provided a valuable opportunity to discuss current issues in coral reef conservation.

Representatives from both federal co-chair agencies, as well as the local government of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hawai’i, discussed lessons learned and recovery efforts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the recent flooding event in Hawai’i. Panelists and task force members stressed the important role that coral reefs serve as protection for coastal communities from storm waves and flooding, and the need for continued and new partnerships among federal and local government agencies.

Jennifer Koss presenting at the Reef Futures conference
Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program, presenting at the Reef Futures conference. Reef Futures, held in 2018 in Key Largo, FL, was the first international conference focused on coral reef restoration. (NOAA/Robin Garcia)

A diverse group of panelists representing academia, the non-governmental sector, and the federal government shared updates on coral reef restoration studies and activities, including the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine study on intervention techniques; the recent Reef Futures conference; the Reef Resilience Network’s manager guide for coral reef restoration; and private sector prizes like XPRIZE.

A discussion on innovative techniques and technology for coral reef management was led by representatives from NASA, the National Geographic Society, and The Nature Conservancy. The Panel discussed innovative tools, including MiDAR, a remote sensing instrument being used to map coral reefs; Allen Coral Atlas, which is using nano-satellites to map coral reefs in detail; and the Coastal Zone Management Trust, an insurance program for the tourism industry on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico that supports coastal restoration.

The final panel on the Florida stony coral tissue loss disease included various representatives from Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who discussed the disease response team’s activities in Florida and local government efforts in Florida to address coral reef health, and how the U.S. Virgin Islands are addressing a similar disease outbreak that has been identified throughout the Caribbean region.

The next U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting is tentatively scheduled for August 2019 in Palau.

For more information on the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, visit