- Announcing the first members of the National System of Marine Protected Areas. In April 2009, NOAA’s Marine Protected Areas Center and the Department of the Interior announced the admission of 225 existing federal, state, and territorial marine protected areas (MPAs) into the National System of Marine Protected Areas. The charter group is comprised of sites from state, territorial, federal, and federal/state partnership agencies in 28 states and offshore areas under federal jurisdiction. Both no-take and multiple use MPAs are included in this first group. The first members will be the focus of cooperative efforts to address common resource management challenges and were placed on the official List of National System MPAs.
- Awarding $69.4 million to state and territory coastal zone management (CZM) programs to implement their state coastal zone management and coastal nonpoint source programs. The National Coastal Zone Management Program is a partnership between OCRM and coastal states to protect and manage the nation’s coasts. Through the CZM Program, OCRM helps state programs engage in comprehensive planning including marine spatial planning and other activities that protect and restore habitats, mitigate hazards, adapt to climate change, protect water quality, and enhance public access to coastal areas. State CZM program accomplishments reported in 2009 (2008 activities) include 1,729 education activities reaching 89,873 participants; 804 training events reaching 19,349 participants; and 264 public recreational access sites to the coast created or improved. With partner support, the state programs also restored 2,764 acres of coastal habitat and protected 6,886 acres by acquisition or easement.
- Protecting over 4,000 acres through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP). CELCP staff worked closely with state and local partners to help protect high-priority coastal land. Approximately 15 CELCP-funded properties were, or are anticipated to be, acquired or put under easement, protecting more than 4,000 acres of critical coastal habitat in 13 states. Nine new CELCP projects totaling over $14 million were also selected for funding during the 2009 annual CELCP competition.
The CELCP program received 54 proposals from 27 states and territories for the 2009 CELCP competition, totaling approximately $79 million in requests. Projects were chosen based on criteria that includes contribution to ecological conservation, recreational opportunities, aesthetic and historical significance, and technical and scientific merit. The 2009 awards will help protect coastal watersheds in Virginia, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, New York, Washington, and Maryland.
- Developing the first smart growth guide for coastal and waterfront communities. OCRM, in partnership with NOAA’s National Sea Grant Program and NOAA Coastal Services Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association, and Rhode Island Sea Grant, released a first-of-its kind interagency guide and complimentary Web site that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities.
Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality-of-life issues. Aimed at planners, local government officials, developers, non-profit groups, and coastal and waterfront residents, the guide will help these communities plan for growth and development while protecting their natural and economic resources, maritime heritage, and traditional sense of place. The guide includes an overview of waterfront communities’ growth-related challenges and opportunities, a description of tools and techniques for applying smart growth guidelines, and case studies that illustrate the guidelines in action.
- Hosting a series of workshops as part of a pioneering effort of marine spatial planning. NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center, in partnership with Marine Conservation Biology Institute, completed a series of four California Ocean Uses Atlas workshops to gather information about how humans use the ocean off the California coast. A variety of stakeholders, including resource managers, military representatives, commercial fishermen, recreational users, and scientists, used innovative interactive geographic information system techniques to map patterns of industrial and military human uses off the California coast, from the high tide line to 200 nautical miles out. The resulting maps and analyses will help guide state, federal, and regional ocean planning and management efforts by entities such as California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health.
- Launching Estuaries 101, the new online science curriculum from NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The site provides powerful ways for students to learn fundamental concepts in science and develop scientific thinking skills as well as explore the nation’s biologically rich and economically important estuaries. From flying over an estuary with Google Maps to tracking the path and impact of a hurricane, Estuaries 101 modules feature hands-on learning, experiments, field-based activities, and data explorations. Estuaries 101 is the central feature of the Reserve System’s newly designed Web site.
- Assisting coastal managers with high-profile coastal issues.
OCRM organized training sessions and forums to update federal, state, and local managers around the country on a number of pressing coastal issues including Federal Consistency, climate change, and alternative energy. OCRM held three training workshops in Alaska and the Mid-Atlantic region on the Coastal Zone Management Act Federal Consistency provision. Nearly 200 people from federal, state, local, and tribal agencies as well as private consultants attended the workshops. OCRM also organized regional coastal zone management forums in the North Atlantic, Southern and Caribbean, West Coast, and Great Lakes regions. The forums brought in federal agency and non-governmental experts to discuss new and emerging topics, technologies, and management approaches for climate change and associated impacts from sea level rise and inundation, ocean energy development, and marine spatial planning.
- Elevating effectiveness in addressing threats to coral reefs. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) released two documents – Goals and Objectives 2010-2015 and the Coral Reef Conservation Program International Strategy 2010-2015. The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic, and ecological impacts on people and communities in the U.S. and around the world. However, with effective leadership and management, healthy reef ecosystems can continue to provide these valuable services to current and future generations.
In order to enhance effective leadership and management of coral reef ecosystems, CRCP is narrowing the focus of its U.S. domestic activities and shifting resources to on-the-ground and in-the-water action. Efforts will concentrate on understanding and addressing the top three recognized global threats to coral reef ecosystems: climate change impacts, fishing impacts, and impacts from land-based sources of pollution. CRCP is also expanding its international presence through more active involvement in coral conservation efforts, primarily in the Pacific, Coral Triangle region, and Caribbean.
- Co-chairing the 21st meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) on February 25 in Washington, DC. The meeting, officially hosted by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), was co-chaired by NOAA. As the first meeting in the new administration, speakers emphasized the importance of coral reef conservation, highlighted conservation strategies and successes in member jurisdictions, and promoted an enhanced vision for how the USCRTF and its members can work to meet the challenges facing coral reefs and local communities.
At this meeting, the Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman challenged the USCRTF to consider new and innovative ways to address the threats facing coral reefs. The Governors of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands all expressed a sense of urgency in the effort to conserve reefs and strongly communicated the need for renewed determination and enthusiasm. Finally, the DOI Secretary shared aspects of the new administration’s agenda as it relates to coral reefs.
- Providing training for coral reef managers on protecting coral reefs from climate change. In June, coral reef managers from around the Caribbean participated in the training workshop Reef Resilience and Climate Change: A Workshop for Coral Reef Managers, in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. More than 25 international experts in coral reef management met to learn about climate change impacts on coral reefs, resilience, incorporating resilience into management and marine protected area design, early warning tools available for use, and ways to communicate about threats to coral reefs. Participants were taught to use NOAA satellite tools to predict bleaching and ways to respond to bleaching events.
Unique to this workshop was an open discussion with stakeholders who work within the Bonaire National Marine Park on the issues of fishing and tourism. This workshop provided reef managers with the tools they need to understand coral bleaching, know when bleaching is likely to occur, and take actions to protect their valuable coral reef resources.