Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Monday signed an executive order creating an interagency working group to review a draft Coral Reef Resiliency Strategy submitted by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans.
“Guam’s coral reefs have declined by almost a third in just the last decade and our reefs are under increasing threat from a number of causes including climate change and pollutants from other sources,” Leon Guerrero said. “Our community’s sustainability efforts, both now and into the future, depends on how well we manage and take actions to protect our coral reefs today.”
A total of 13 agencies are involved in the working group, which will be led by Agriculture Director Chelsa Muna-Brecht and vice chair Tyrone J. Taitano, Director for the Bureau of Statistics and Plans.
The group has two months to review and make recommendations in order to prepare a policy for immediate implementation. Plans focus on reef response and restoration, reducing land-based sources of pollution, effective fisheries management, sustainable recreation use and improving community resilience and adaption to climate change.
“Our coral reefs are part of Guam’s environmental heritage,” the governor said. “The reefs are vital to protecting our shoreline and seashore communities. Because our reefs are an integral component of our competitiveness as a tourist destination and vital to
sustaining our fisheries, Guam’s future economic growth is also at risk. We need to take decisive action now to protect our reefs and build resiliency against ongoing threats such as climate change.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture has authorized the University of Guam Marine Lab to relocate corals from the ramp to a nearby reef. “We believe that it is in the public’s best interest to move these corals,” said Celestino Aguon, chief of the Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources at the department. “The relocation will improve boating access and minimize damage to the corals from boats.”
Local residents have raised concerns about the corals growing on the ramp for some time, but repeated coral bleaching events made it risky to relocate them until now.
Farron Taijeron of The Nature Conservancy, left, and Claire Moreland-Ochoa of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory attach a removed fragment of coral to an appropriate substrate. Photo courtesy of UOG
“Transplanting is stressful for corals,” said Laurie Raymundo, the Marine Lab’s acting director. “Conditions need to be right, and the corals need to be handled carefully to survive the move.”
Raymundo is an expert on coral restoration and developed a plan to safely transplant the corals to their new location. She led the effort on March 21, supported by Marine Lab students and personnel from partner organizations including The Nature Conservancy and UnderWater World Guam.
The Marine Lab has been working with government agencies to improve local capacity for reef restoration and to test new methods such as coral propagation and transplanting. This project will build capacity for transplanting, while protecting these at-risk corals.