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Senate panel approves coral reefs protection bill
By Jason Heller, October 31, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Honoluluadvertiser.com

Coral reefs would receive stronger protections under a bill the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved today.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, the bill's sponsor and chairman of the committee, called coral reef preservation "vital" to national interests, especially for fishing, tourism and coastal communities.

"Coral reef-related services and resources are worth billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy and economies worldwide," he said.

Coral reefs are critical for Hawai'i, which is host to more than 410,000 acres of living reef around the main islands alone, Inouye said.

The bill, which would reauthorize a law enacted seven years ago, would make it illegal to damage corals. It would exempt scientific research, fishing, emergency responses and other activities authorized by federal and state laws...

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