Protecting Coastal & Marine Places
With expansive beaches and a seemingly endless horizon of blue water, the beauty of ocean and coastal areas is hard to dispute. Yet we rarely think about our dependence on coastal resources to satisfy our ever-increasing appetites for energy, food, goods, and services.
During the 2008 fiscal year, NOS remained on the front lines to protect our Nationís coastal and marine places. Some 2008 highlights include:
- Commemorating the designation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) by the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The monument, which provides habitat for more than 7,000 marine species and contains 4,500 square miles of pristine coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, is the twelfth PSSA in the world. The PSSA designation deems an area deserving of special protection because of its ecological, socioeconomic, or scientific significance and its potential vulnerability to damage from international maritime activities.
- Publishing new editions of nautical charts that depict the boundaries of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the newly designated PSSA, Ship Reporting System Areas, and special zones known as "Areas to be Avoided." The updated nautical charts will help mariners navigate the waters of the monumentís remote and pristine 1,200-mile stretch of coral islands, seamounts, banks, and shoals.
- Assisting Trinidad and Tobago in the development of a National Program of Action (NPA) to improve watershed management and protect coastal resources. An NPA provides a framework for coastal management and is a national plan to prevent, reduce, control, and/or eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities. NOS helped identify major land-based pollution sources and refined specific actions to mitigate pollutant impacts on Trinidad and Tobago.
- Organizing the fifth annual NOAA Restoration Day, where 200 NOAA employees and partners worked to restore a site in Maryland and a site in Virginia. Restoration activities included planting underwater Bay grasses, seeding native oysters on an offshore reef, planting over 2,000 wetland plants, performing coastal-bottom mapping via boat, clearing brush, and fish seining.
- Protecting over 8,000 acres of critical coastal habitat Ė including 35 properties—through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP). Five new CELCP projects were selected for funding during the year; projects were chosen based on their contributions to ecological conservation, recreational opportunities, aesthetic and historical significance, and technical and scientific merits, among other criteria.
- Leading a scientific research expedition to the site of the remains of three sunken German submarines off the coast of North Carolina. As part of an effort to properly document and protect the wrecks, NOS conducted a non-invasive archaeological survey that included photo documentation of the vessels' visible sections and the biological communities found at the sites.
- Working to reduce the amount of unused fishing gear in fishing communities and the marine environment through the Fishing for Energy Project. This partnership project provides a place for a fishing community to dispose of, at no cost, old or derelict fishing gear recovered while at sea. New Bedford, Massachusetts, was the first port on the Eastern Seaboard to launch the program, with four sites added and plans to expand to the entire East Coast.
- Releasing The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2008, a report assessing the condition of coral reef ecosystems in 15 locations ranging from the U.S. Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to the western Pacific. Research in the report shows that nearly half of the Nationís coral reefs are now considered to be in "poor" or "fair" condition.