TAMAP, Fla. (WFLA) — An environmental protection and resiliency bill aimed at restoring coral reefs cleared both chambers of U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The legislation, called the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, was sponsored by both of Florida’s U.S. Senators and bipartisan allies, and shepherded through the U.S. House of Representatives by Florida Democrat Darren Soto.
The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act reauthorizes and updates the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, allowing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef program to modernize. Doing so, NOAA can “give new and innovative tools and resources to the non-federal partners who are closest to the crisis in American coral reefs.”
Those partners are, according to a release from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the states, territories, and local communities who live near and alongside the reefs themselves.
“I saw firsthand the devastated condition of our coral reefs when I toured the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and I promised a comprehensive response. This new law will ensure federal agencies are partnering effectively with state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to restore our dwindling coral reefs,” Rubio said. “The Florida communities that rely on the health of these critical ecosystems cannot be left behind.”
Rubio’s statement continued, saying the legislation as “pivotal” for the ongoing efforts to protect coastal communities and coral reefs.
The bill’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 was an effort undertaken across two states and both major political parties.
“The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is a great win for Florida’s environment, and will build on our efforts to help restore and protect our coral reef ecosystems. I want to thank my colleagues, Senators Rubio, Hirono and Schatz, as well as Congressman Soto, for their hard work on this legislation and am proud that we finally got it across the finish line,” Scott said in a statement. “I’ll never stop fighting to make sure future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer.”
In Congress, Rep. Soto led the effort with identical legislation, allowing it to pass both chambers and was signed into law as part of the NDAA.
Both of Florida’s U.S. Senators, Rubio and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and both of Hawaii’s U.S. Senators, Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), pushed the legislation through in a bipartisan effort.
“Our Florida coral reefs are national treasures that contain part of the most diverse ecosystems on planet Earth. Time and time again, we’ve witnessed how the effects of climate change, overfishing, pollution, and development have threatened the vitality of coral reefs around our coasts,” Rep. Soto said. “I’m thankful that our legislation with Senator Rubio was included in the FY23 NDAA and will help protect our environment – specifically our precious habitats for marine life.”