It’s Not Only Fish That Need Coral Reefs

WASHINGTON (MAY 20, 2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) held a Congressional policy briefing today on Capitol Hill highlighting the need for better policies to protect the world’s coral reefs in the face of climate change.

Featured speakers included WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, WCS Director of Marine Conservation Dr. Caleb McClennen, and WCS Senior Conservation Zoologist Dr. Tim McClanahan. Honorary hosts at the briefing included Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Jose E. Serrano (D-NY).

WCS called the briefing to discuss innovative approaches to coral reef ecosystem management in the face of climate change and update and discuss current coral reef legislative actions within the U.S. Congress.

As the health of the world’s coral reefs continues to decline because of climate change, it’s anticipated that millions of people around the world will suffer from food shortages, loss of livelihoods, and displacement which will ultimately result in instability and international conflict.

As many developing countries lack the capacity to meet the challenges posed by climate change, the speakers noted that U.S. Government investment in the regions likely to be affected has become critical. Support to the Coral Triangle Initiative in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, for example, helps not only protect over 500 species of coral and 3,000 species of reef fish, but also the food supply, economies, and environmental services that sustain the region’s millions of coastal inhabitants. This investment also secures goods and services that benefit the United States, such as fisheries, biomedical resources and tourism.

At the briefing, the speakers recommended that the U.S. implement innovative programs to address the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems and communities and provide leadership assistance to the most vulnerable human populations. From a legislative perspective, the speakers recommended the creation of an International Adaptation Program at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the continued reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act.

WCS is leading a global effort to create innovative solutions to protect coral reefs and the human communities that depend on them. Through its field-based programs in places like the Coral Triangle, Western Indian Ocean, and Caribbean Sea, WCS is working to protect nearly 90 percent of all tropical coral species worldwide and to inform the response of policy-makers to complex changes in the world’s oceans.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

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Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682;
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