Coral Reef Task Force seeks to engage public with two free lectures today on St. Croix

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Several free, public events are taking place today as part of the 30th annual Coral Reef Task Force meeting.

The task force was formed in 1998 as a federal initiative to protect and manage the coral reef regions that fall under the U.S. flag. The task force is a joint venture between the U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Interior Department.

Scientists and coral reef researchers have traveled to St. Croix this week for the task force's annual meeting. The last time the meeting was on St. Croix was 1999.

Today, two free lectures are open to the public:

- "A Ridge to Reef Approach: Discussing the Science and Management of U.S. Coral Reef Priority Watershed Sites" will take place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. today at University of the Virgin Islands' St. Croix campus MEC Auditorium Room 401.

- "Coral Bleaching in Times of Climate Change and Local Effects in the USVI" will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at the Danish Guinea West India Company Warehouse/Slave Market Building at Christiansted National Historic Site.

According to the task force's website, it includes leaders of 12 federal agencies, seven U.S. states, territories and commonwealths and three freely associated states. The group helps build partnerships, strategies and support for on-the-ground action to conserve coral reefs, according to the website.

The task force's first meeting of the Caribbean Regional Planning Body will be from 8 a.m. to noon today at The Buccaneer Hotel.

The purpose of the meeting is to launch the new group, which is charged with advancing marine-based planning in the Caribbean.

After a morning of presentations from federal and local officials, the new group will take questions and statements from the public from 11:45 a.m. to noon.

On Friday, the task force will conduct its annual business meeting from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall. Speakers at the meeting will include Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Eileen Sobeck, NOAA Assistant Secretary Mark Schaefer, and the governors of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Updates on various working groups and committees will be presented; a tourism panel will be conducted from 11 a.m. to noon; and a public comment period has been scheduled for 2 to 2:30 p.m.

For more information on the task force go to

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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