Government Inaction Kills Coral Reefs

In early 2009, President Bush established three marine national monuments around a number of US territorial islands and wildlife refuges in the Central Pacific Ocean. These isolated places harbor hundreds of marine species and contain some of the most pristine coral reefs on earth. A 121-foot fishing boat sank on Palmyra Atoll in 1991, and an 85-foot fishing vessel ran aground and sank on Kingman Reef in 2007, both of which are located within one of these monuments. The two shipwrecks are leaching iron into the water, which in turn stimulates the growth of a nuisance anemone-like organism that overgrows and kills corals. At least 740 acres of coral habitat have been destroyed so far and the devastation continues at a rapid pace. 

The Department of the Interior’s US Fish and Wildlife Service, the manager of the national monument, has failed to remove these wrecks despite the extensive damage they are causing.

Scientists say failure to remove these fishing vessels threatens the health of the reefs, and consequently the organisms that depend on them for protection, reproduction, and feeding.  Please urge Department of the Interior Secretary Salazar to remove the two shipwrecks immediately.

We the undersigned support the removal of two sunken fishing vessels that are devastating coral reef habitats at Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuges, both of which are part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument overseen by your department.  It is the responsibility of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove these vessels. 

 The breakdown of the ships’ metal is causing organisms normally found in small numbers in the area to grow out-of-control and kill portions of the coral reefs. Scientists estimate that at least 740 acres of coral habitat have been destroyed so far at Palmyra alone, and the devastation continues at a rapid pace around both wrecks. 

Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef are considered some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.  They support more than 400 fish species, over 200 coral species, a wide variety of invertebrates, and a number of large marine organisms such as sharks and sea turtles.

These shipwrecks threaten the health of the reefs and the integrity of the monument.  Please direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the wrecks immediately.   Thank you in advance for protecting our marine monuments. 

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