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The Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park, The Parque Nacional, Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano and the National Coral Reef Institute, USA Receives Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 09/03/2009
Contact Information: Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park and the National Coral Reef Institute will receive a first place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Bi-National category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

The Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzana (Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park) consists of 17 reef components surrounding the port of Veracruz, Mexico, and encompasses a total of 52,000 hectares. The reefs, judged among the highest at risk reefs in the wider Caribbean area, receive substantial freshwater runoff from multiple sources but primarily from two extensive river drainages, major river systems, which carry heavy sediment and agricultural as well as industrial and sewage loads. Further impacts include ship groundings, oil spills, port construction and heavy fishing pressure. The National Coral Reef Institute is collaborating with the Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park in an ongoing, 3 years to date, project. The purpose of an ongoing collaboration between the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) and the Park is to make an assessment of fish and coral assemblages within the park and correlate the distribution of these assemblages, and the presence of coral disease, to freshwater runoff. This information is critical for establishing and evaluating resource management strategies as well as evaluating the extent of anthropogenic, and other, impacts.

A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA Region 4 said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a priceless treasure. As a unique habitat, a place which gives pleasure to countless Americans, and a source of some of our most valuable resources, it has no equal. These Gulf Guardians who labor to protect and enhance this magnificent sea deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

“The Gulf Guardian Awards recognize the positive efforts to protect the important natural resources the Gulf of Mexico holds. The Gulf provides critical habitat for wildlife, recreation and commerce for humans, protection for inland communities, and so much more,' said Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield of U.S. EPA Region 6. “By preserving this vital resource, this year's winners are gaining benefits for all Americans.”

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2009, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at