Protecting Coastal and Marine Places
From coral reefs to beaches and fishing grounds, coastal and marine places are both beautiful and bountiful. Protecting these resources from both human and natural damages is essential to ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these areas.
During the 2009 fiscal year, NOS worked to protect resources at risk, working to keep these areas safe, healthy, and productive. Some highlights from 2009 include:
- Working closely with a consortium of agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Hawaii, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, to develop a nomination package for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Former President George Bush announced the nomination prior to leaving office. The nomination was sent to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the International Council on Monuments and Sites will review the application, and in July 2010, will vote on its inscription to the World Heritage List.
- Providing determinations that led to the expansion of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) to include the Davidson Seamount. The seamount, located off the coast of California, requires protection from the take of or other injury to organisms living on or near the sea floor. As a result of management plan revision, a seven-year process involving public input and agency collaboration, MBNMS now includes the undersea mountain as the Davidson Seamount Management Zone. The boundary change adds a 775-square-statute-mile area to the MBNMS, increasing the total area to 6,094 square statute miles.
- Continuing to monitor sea level in the United States. During fiscal year 2009, NOS calculated sea-level trends for 70 new global stations, bringing the number of global stations to 114. This information is available in Google Maps and Google Earth interfaces to allow the user an easier way to navigate the data. NOS also completed a statistical analysis tool that provides critical sea level background information necessary for design, implementation, and monitoring of sustainable habitat restoration projects.
- Providing data and products to support the designation of Pacific marine national monuments. In a direct response to a request from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, NOS prepared extensive geographic information system maps and reports to support an Executive Order by former President George Bush to designate three Marine National Monuments in the Pacific Ocean. The NOS data demonstrate that the new monuments — Marianas Trench, Rose Atoll, and Pacific Remote Islands — contain some of the largest areas of live coral cover, high biomass, and abundance of reef fish in U.S. waters.
- Awarding $69.4 million to state and territory coastal zone management (CZM) programsto implement their state CZM and coastal nonpoint source pollution programs. The National Coastal Zone Management Program is a partnership between NOS and coastal states to protect and manage the Nation’s coasts. Through the CZM Program, NOS 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.
- Hosting the First Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Hawaii. The conference brought together over 200 managers, scientists, and educators from approximately 40 countries to learn from each other and discuss the many similar challenges and successes that come along with understanding and managing highly mobile marine mammals. Australia and the United States, as well as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Oceania, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, used the venue to make announcements about major discoveries and initiatives.
- Revising regulations for Monterey Bay, Cordell Bank, and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. The regulatory changes are a component of new management plans released in November of 2008 for the three sanctuaries. The management plans and regulations for each of the three sanctuaries were developed at the same time for greater consistency and share many common elements, but they are not identical. Each sanctuary developed regulations to address the unique needs and circumstances at each site.
- Announcing, in partnership with the Department of the Interior, 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. This group will be the focus of cooperative efforts to address common resource management challenges and has been placed on the official List of National System MPAs.
- Restoring more than 2,500 acres of coastal wetlands harmed by historical releases of hazardous substances from the original Clark Chevron refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas General Land Office worked with the Chevron Corporation to restore habitats that were injured by releases from refinery operations that took place decades ago. Projects included the restoration of historic water flow conditions to approximately 1,300 acres of coastal wetlands, the creation of nearly 90 acres of estuarine intertidal marsh and more than 30 acres of coastal wet prairie, and the restoration of 1,500 acres of coastal emergent marsh plant communities to historical conditions.
- Continuing to work with Vietnam to build capacity for integrated coastal and ocean resources management. In 2009, the municipality of Haiphong and province of Quang Ninh, with the support of NOS and the International Union for Conservation of Nature-The World Conservation Union, completed a regional framework for integrated coastal management with the approval of a nine-point action plan. The action plan established a coordination mechanism for the region to address coastal development priorities and plans. The governments also established a work plan and committed funding for advancing ecosystem approaches to management in the coastal Tonkin Gulf region of Vietnam.
- Releasing the 2009 NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) Goals & Objectives 2010-2015 and the Coral Reef Conservation Program International Strategy 2010-2015. The 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. These documents lay out a multi-disciplinary approach to coral reef conservation, including scientific research, monitoring, social science, communications, education, and capacity building.
- Launching “WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea,” an interactive online game to teach fourth through seventh graders about estuaries. Set in California’s Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, the game explains what an estuary is and describes diverse ecosystems in estuaries, tidal influences, restoration efforts, and marine debris. It emphasizes personal responsibility in caring for the environment. To succeed in the game, players must learn about the factors that produce healthy estuaries and food webs and why estuaries are essential to both ocean life and to humans.
- Working, through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), to protect over 4,000 acres of critical coastal habitat in 13 states. CELCP staff worked closely with coastal state and local partners to help them protect high-priority coastal land. Approximately 15 CELCP-funded properties were, or are anticipated to be, acquired or put under easement. Nine new CELCP projects totaling over $14 million also were selected for funding during the fiscal year 2009 annual CELCP competition. The 2009 awards will help protect coastal watersheds in Virginia, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, New York, Washington, and Maryland.
- Co-chairing the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meeting in Washington, DC, in February. The meeting, officially hosted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, was the first meeting in the new Administration and 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.
- Partnering with the University of Maryland and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish vertical benchmarks in a newly constructed wetland at the Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Site. Poplar Island, a human-made island located on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, is the dredge disposal site for clean sediments from the Baltimore Harbor approach channels. Greater vertical accuracy and spatial resolution of wetland surface elevation will give scientists more valuable insight into processes maintaining coastal elevation with respect to sea level as a constructed wetland matures.
- Continuing the Fishing for Energy partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta Energy Corporation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Schnitzer Steel to reduce derelict fishing gear and find positive solutions to address this gear. The partnership provides a place for the fishing community to dispose of old or derelict fishing gear at no cost. In fiscal year 2009, the Fishing for Energy partnership expanded to several additional ports in New England and Oregon. Since the program first launched in February 2008, partnership ports have collected over 188 tons of old and derelict fishing gear.
- Hosting, for the fifth year in a row, NOAA Heritage Week. This year’s celebration took employees and the public “Beyond the Horizon,” with award-winning films, special presentations, and dynamic guest speakers highlighting how NOAA monitors and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment and conserves and manages ocean and coastal resources. Heritage Week is part of NOAA’s involvement in the Preserve America initiative, a White House initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy cultural and natural heritage.
- Coordinating 250 NOAA employees and partners in the sixth annual NOAA Restoration Day events in Maryland and Virginia. The Maryland event took place in Abingdon, Maryland, at Otter Point Creek, a component of the Maryland Chesapeake National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Virginia event took place at First Landing State Park in northern Virginia Beach. The event is one of the largest voluntary federal employee-sponsored environmental stewardship events in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region. Volunteers planted underwater grasses; removed invasive plants; planted native trees and other plants; monitored fish, birds, turtles, and amphibians; removed trash; and performed digital elevation mapping activities such as benchmark setting and recovery.
- Hosting a training workshop, “Reef Resilience and Climate Change: A Workshop for Coral Reef Managers,” for more than 25 international experts in coral reef management from around the Caribbean. These experts met in Kralendjik, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, to learn about climate change impacts on coral reefs, responding to coral bleaching, incorporating resilience into management and marine protected areas design, using early warning tools, and communicating about threats to coral reefs.
- Supporting the creation of a new national-level ocean film festival, held in Savannah, Georgia. The inaugural Blue Ocean Film Festival was comprised of both an industry-focused conference and public exhibition of films. The industry conference supported panels, training, and courses on hardware, ocean conservation, and filmmaking. More than 200 films were submitted for the festival and of these, 50 finalists were selected. Nearly 300 filmmakers registered for the conference and more than 4,000 people attended screenings over three days.