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Remarks at the Presentation of a Point of Light Award to Reef Relief and an Exchange With Reporters in Islamorada, Florida

April 22, 1990

The President. Well, Craig and Deevon Quirolo, and guests, I'm here this morning because I want to recognize the good work, the outstanding work, of Reef Relief of Key West, Florida, as the 123d daily Point of Light.

After witnessing an alarming increase in the loss of coral reefs from anchors and excessive ocean traffic, Craig founded Reef Relief, and today Quirolo and hundreds of other individual volunteers -- they volunteer their time and effort to protect these environmentally sensitive areas off the Florida Keys. These volunteers install buoys to which boats can tie up as an alternative to dropping anchor. And volunteers also participate in community education, teaching the public how to preserve and care for these precious reefs. And through a program called Marine Debris, still more volunteers participate in cleanup efforts and water quality research. I applaud them and all the volunteers associated with Reef Relief for their dedication to protecting their environment. They continue to demonstrate that individuals can and do make a difference.

And now I want to present the letter -- thank you, Governor. If I could just hand that off to you, sir, with great pride in your work and say how much the whole country appreciates this effort.

Today on Earth Day and in the presence of a dedicated organization like Reef Relief, I'm also pleased to announce that I'm sending to the International Maritime Commission in London my proposal to create an Area To Be Avoided to protect the entire Florida reef track from shipping traffic. The area will extend roughly 10 miles off the Florida coast and encompass the Florida reefs which lie 5 miles off the coast. The proposal, when implemented, will instruct all vessels carrying cargoes of oil or hazardous material and all other vessels greater than 50 meters in length to avoid transiting close to the reefs.

The Exxon Valdez disaster has made us all painfully aware of the ecological devastation which can result from a major oil spill. The Florida coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and a unique national treasure. And protecting the reefs from damage both from vessel groundings and pollution is imperative.

And I want to thank the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Yost; Governor Martinez, who's worked on this; concerned Florida Congressmen such as Bill Lehman and Dante Fascell; and concerned citizens who are working together to protect this beautiful and environmentally sensitive reef area.

Thank you, sir, and well-done. The floor is yours.

Mr. Quirolo. I'd like to say on behalf of Reef Relief that we're very excited about receiving this award for this Point of Light. And we're very excited that the coral reefs of the Florida Keys have taken notice up in Washington, and we're assured that your judgment will give us future hope for the future of our living coral reefs. And I'm really excited about this because it gives us an open dialog between the actual coral reef down here in Florida and the President of the United States, and I don't think you can have a better partnership than that. And I feel assured that our future down here and the future of the reef will be in good hands.

The President. And just so his constituency will know that he faithfully fulfilled not only his conviction but what he and I both feel is an obligation for citizens to talk frankly to the President, he raised with me the very sensitive question of offshore drilling. I want to just know -- --

Mr. Quirolo. Good -- thank you, sir. [Laughter]

The President. And I told him there would be an answer very, very soon. And I didn't think he'd be too disappointed.

American Hostages in Lebanon

Q. What's the word from Syria? Will a hostage be released, do you know?

The President. Look, I don't want to conduct a press conference here; but on that one, since the hopes of the American people have once again been raised, I can't tell you that I've learned anything new this morning at all. I've not talked to General Scowcroft. We'll be over there to do that right now before we go off once again to the flats out there. But I've not heard anymore about it, and so, I just don't want to be a part of raising the hopes of the families and then not have something happen. And I've said that for the last 3 months while this understandable speculation has been going on. So, I wish I could tell you, but there isn't any news that's been brought to my attention this morning. But let's hope, because this was one of the days that's been singled out where there might be some action.

Thank you all.

Q. How will you respond to that, Mr. President? You talk about good will begetting good will.

The President. Too hypothetical, Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network]. We've got to see what happens, and I'm talking about release of all the hostages. We want every American held against his will, her will, released wherever they may be. And that's the ground rules, and that's the bottom line. And so, let's hope there's some action, but there's no point of my speculating. Put yourself in the place of these families: one day there's a picture of one of these hostages; the very next day it's another. I don't consider that a very good way to deal with the emotions and the prayers of families, frankly. So, I can't contribute any more to it.

Off we go.

Note: The President spoke at 7:05 a.m. on Cheeca Lodge Beach. Brent Scowcroft was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

George Bush, Remarks at the Presentation of a Point of Light Award to Reef Relief and an Exchange With Reporters in Islamorada, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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