[Federal Register: November 16, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 220)]
[Page 62215-62217]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

United States Coral Reef Task Force: Options for the United 
States To Consider To Promote the Conservation of Coral Reefs; Public 

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting.


SUMMARY: On behalf of the United States Coral Reef Task Force, we, the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a public meeting to discuss 
the trade in non-food fish coral reef species, the effects of this 
trade on coral reefs, and measures which the United States should 
consider to minimize these effects and promote coral reef conservation. 
Representatives of other agencies involved in the Trade Subgroup will 
participate in the meeting to answer questions and receive public 
comments on potential conservation actions.

DATES: The public meeting will be held on Monday, December 6 from 2:00 
to 5:00 pm.

ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held in Room 7000A and B, 
Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, DC.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sheila Einsweiler, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, telephone (703) 358-1949, 
fax (703) 358-2271, E-mail: Sheila__Einsweiler@fws.gov.



    We request that anyone that wishes to speak at this public meeting 
contact us using the contact information above so that we can ensure 
that everyone is given enough time to express their opinions. We 
request that everyone who speaks at this meeting also give us their 
comments in writing. If you are unable to attend the meeting but still 
wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of several 
methods. You may mail comments to the following address: U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Office of the Assistant Director for International 
Affairs, 1849 C Street, Room 3245, Washington, DC 20240. You may 
comment via the Internet to r9oma__cites@fws.gov. Please submit 
Internet comments as an ASCII file, avoiding the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please also include ``Attn: 
Public Meeting on U.S. Coral Reef Task Force'', and your name and 
return address in your Internet message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet 
message, contact us directly at the telephone number listed above. 
Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to the above address. We will 
consider comments and information received by December 10, 1999.
    Coral reefs are recognized as being among the most diverse and 
valuable ecosystems on earth. Reef systems are storehouses of immense 
biological wealth and provide economic and ecosystem services to 
millions of people as shoreline protection, areas of natural beauty and 
recreation, and sources of food, pharmaceuticals, jobs, and revenues. 
According to one estimate, reef habitats provide humans with services 
worth about $375 billion each year, despite the fact that they cover 
less than one percent of the earth's surface.
    Unfortunately, coral reefs are also recognized as being among the 
most threatened marine ecosystems on the planet. Coral reefs are being 
seriously degraded by human activities, especially overexploitation of 
resources, destructive fishing practices, coastal development, and 
runoff from improper land-use practices. The international trade in 
coral, reef fish, live rock, and other coral reef organisms contributes 
to the decline and degradation of reefs. Coral reef resources traded 
internationally supply a wide number of markets and industries, 
including the seafood industry, live food fish markets, the aquarium 
trade, the curio and jewelry trade, and the pharmaceutical and research 
industries. As a major consumer of coral reef organisms and a

[[Page 62216]]

leader in coral reef conservation efforts, the United States has a 
critical responsibility to address coral reef trade issues.
    Since 1994, the United States has worked actively to address the 
coral reef crisis through the United States Coral Reef Initiative and 
the International Coral Reef Initiative. Federal agencies, State, 
local, territorial, commonwealth, and local governments, 
nongovernmental organizations, and commercial interests have worked 
together to design and implement management, education, monitoring, 
research, and restoration efforts to conserve and sustainably use coral 
reef ecosystems. During the 1997 Year of the Reef, the U.S. joined many 
other nations in activities to raise public awareness about the 
importance of conserving coral reefs and to facilitate actions to 
protect coral reef ecosystems. On October 21, 1997, the 105th Congress 
passed House Concurrent Resolution 8, recognizing the significance of 
maintaining the health and stability of coral reef ecosystems. The 
United Nations declared 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean to 
raise public awareness and increase actions to conserve and use in a 
sustainable manner the broader ocean environment, including coral 
    On June 11, 1998, as part of the National Ocean Conference, 
President Clinton issued Executive Order 13089, Coral Reef Protection 
(64 FR 323701). E.O. 13089 established a national policy directing all 
Federal agencies whose actions may affect U.S. coral reef ecosystems to 
identify actions which may affect these ecosystems, utilize their 
authorities to protect and enhance these ecosystems, and to the extent 
permitted by law, ensure that their actions will not degrade these 
ecosystems. E.O. 13089 also established a United States Coral Reef Task 
Force (USCRTF), co-chaired by the Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Commerce and also including the Administrator of the 
Environmental Protection Agency, the Attorney General, the Secretary of 
Agriculture, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the 
Secretary of Transportation, the Director of the National Science 
Foundation, the Administrator of the Agency for International 
Development, and the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and 
Space Administration.
    The duties of the USCRTF include: (a) Coordination of a 
comprehensive program of coral reef mapping and monitoring; (b) 
development and implementation of scientific research; (c) 
conservation, mitigation, and restoration of coral reef damage or 
degradation; and (d) international cooperation and collaboration. 
Included in these duties are specific directions to the USCRTF to 
develop solutions to problems of over-fishing, over-use, and collection 
of coral reef species, and to assess the U.S. role in international 
trade and protection of coral reef species.
    At its first meeting in October, 1998, at Biscayne National Park, 
Florida, the USCRTF established a series of Working Groups to develop 
immediate actions and longer-term strategies, including an 
International Working Group under the leadership of the U.S. Department 
of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. At the 
second meeting of the USCRTF, held in Hawaii in March, 1999, the 
International Working Group reported on its review of the effects of 
international trade, destructive fishing practices, and other issues, 
which showed that the United States is by far the largest consumer of 
live coral and marine fishes for the aquarium trade and dead coral 
skeletons and precious corals for curios and jewelry. The United States 
also was found to be a major consumer of sea horses, queen conch, and 
giant clams.
    As a result, at its March meeting the USCRTF adopted a resolution 
requesting an accelerated interagency review of the advisability of 
pursuing legislation that addresses the trade in coral and coral reef 
species, led by the Council on Environmental Quality and in close 
consultation with members of the marine aquarium trade industry that 
are promoting certification and sustainability in the trade in coral 
reef species. The USCRTF also supported resolutions adopted by working 
groups of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum regarding 
destructive fishing practices. In addition, a Trade Subgroup was 
established to further examine the nature and extent of threats to 
reefs related to trade in coral reef resources, evaluate current U.S. 
activities, and recommend further actions.
    We are committed to working in cooperation with State, Territorial, 
Commonwealth, and local government agencies, nongovernmental 
organizations, the scientific community, and commercial interests and 
any other stakeholders in pursuing the objectives of E.O. 13089. With 
this public meeting, we are seeking comment on the relationship between 
trade and conservation of non-food fish coral reef species, and what 
actions the United States should consider, internationally and 
domestically, to reduce harmful effects of human activity and encourage 
beneficial measures. There are a number of international and domestic 
activities which could assist in reducing harmful impacts to coral 
reefs from overharvest, destructive harvest, and trade. These coral 
reef conservation activities may include:
    (1) Working within existing international frameworks such as the 
Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora (CITES), the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), and 
other multilateral, regional, and bilateral forums;
    (2) Raising international awareness among governments, NGOs, 
industry, scientists, and consumers, and gathering better information 
regarding impacts of international trade;
    (3) Building capacity in source countries to address 
overexploitation of resources, implementation of CITES and national 
controls, and destructive fishing practices;
    (4) Improving law enforcement efforts against illegal coral trade 
and smuggling into the United States, development of cyanide detection 
tests for live fish, and committing additional resources to 
    (5) Raising domestic consumer awareness through educational 
materials and encouraging alternatives to wild collection, such as 
sustainable captive-breeding or artificial culture or captive breeding;
    (6) Analyzing and improving data collection and monitoring for 
imports of coral reef species into the United States;
    (7) And, if necessary, developing new regulatory measures which 
would create additional authority to restrict commerce and address the 
role of U.S. consumer demand in causing unsustainable harvest or 
destructive harvests.
    With this public meeting, we are particularly seeking comments 
about whether actions (1) through (6) can be expected to be sufficient 
to address the harmful effects of trade in coral reef species, if 
actively pursued, or whether there is a need for additional regulatory 
authority now to restrict commerce, in addition to the other actions 
included in this list. If such new authority were to be developed, we 
would like to receive comments about whether and how we should 
    (a) The scope of species and activities which could be subject to 
additional regulatory authority;
    (b) International issues, such as destructive fishing practices, 
unsustainable harvests, and international trade;
    (c) Domestic issues, such as interstate commerce and domestic 

[[Page 62217]]

including commercial, subsistence, and recreational uses, and 
applicability to Federal vs. State waters;
    (d) Ways in which such new authority could be used to encourage 
voluntary measures prior to, or lieu of, the actual imposition of new 
regulations on harvest and trade; and

    (e) Any other issues pertinent to assessing the need for, and 
effects of, additional regulatory authorities or non-regulatory 
measures designed to promote coral reef conservation.
    You may obtain additional information about the U.S. Coral Reef 
Task Force and its conservation activities from the internet at http://
coralreef.gov or by contacting us at one of the addresses above.

    Dated: November 10, 1999.
Marshall P. Jones,
Assistant Director for International Affairs, Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 99-29878 Filed 11-15-99; 8:45 am]