Small Bloom Predicted for Gulf of Maine Red Tide in 2017
This summer’s red tide in the Gulf of Maine is predicted to be relatively small with limited impacts, as forecast by researchers at NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and North Carolina State University—continuing the pattern of smaller blooms seen over the last three years. Seasonal forecasts depend on counts of seed-like cysts of the alga Alexandrium fundyense in bottom sediments in the Gulf of Maine. Cyst abundances measured in late 2016 by NCCOS and WHOI were among the lowest recorded since surveys began in 2004. However, changing meteorological and oceanographic conditions can also affect the location and toxicity of Alexandrium blooms (red tide), making continued monitoring necessary. Throughout spring and summer, NOAA will issue weekly updates of modeled bloom extent, trajectory, and intensity to complement the seasonal forecast. Alexandrium blooms can produce a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in shellfish and may lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning in people who eat contaminated shellfish.
Regional Climate Experts Prepare for New Extremes
The Southeast and Caribbean Climate Community of Practice hosted a gathering of climate and resilience professionals, nonprofit representatives, and community leaders in the largest-of-its-kind meeting to date in Charleston, SC. The Community of Practice was formed in 2010 to exchange knowledge on climate and hazards, with support from OCM, Sea Grant, NOAA Southeast and Caribbean Regional Collaboration Team, and NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Panelists presented information on, and lessons learned from, hurricane impacts and recovery efforts. NOAA shared emerging trends related to extreme events, and communications specialists, including those from the National Association of the Deaf, shared experiences about the critical needs and challenges of delivering effective communications during an extreme event. Presenters also discussed emerging opportunities for economic recovery planning.
Twenty-plus Tons of Debris Removed from Washington Coast
As a founding member of Washington CoastSavers—an organization dedicated to keeping Washington beaches free of marine debris through coordinated beach cleanups, education, and prevention—Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary organized staff and 1,300 volunteers to haul away more than 20 tons of marine debris from 65 beaches along the Washington coast. Debris consisted of hundreds of bags of garbage, boat parts, floats, ropes, and all sorts of plastics. Volunteers represented the Youth Environmental Stewardship Program, Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Northwest Watershed Institute, and AmeriCorps. This year, through a new partnership with TerraCycle, some hard-to-recycle marine debris will be recycled instead of heading to a landfill.
Monitoring High Water Levels in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River
Water level measurements at stations maintained by CO-OPS on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are currently at or near historic high levels. On May 9, water levels at New York’s Alexandria Bay station exceeded its maximum high-level record (set in April 1993) by more than 11 centimeters. Unusually high water levels are causing erosion and flooding along the lakeshore and in the area surrounding Montreal Harbor.
Sanctuaries Seek Advisory Council Applicants
National marine sanctuary advisory councils are seeking new members to contribute their knowledge and advice on issues including management, science, service, and stewardship. National marine sanctuary advisory councils are community-based advisory groups established to provide recommendations to site superintendents. More than 440 advisory council members, including alternates, represent a broad cross-section of the communities that lie adjacent to national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Members bring many interests to the table, including recreational fishing, conservation, education, diving, boating, shipping, tourism, harbors and ports, maritime business, agriculture, and maritime heritage. The current period to accept applications closes May 31, 2017. Applications not received or postmarked by May 31 will not be considered.
National Estuarine Research Reserve System Funds Science Transfer Awards
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative, which supports collaborative estuary research and science, awarded more than $250,000 to six projects. All projects are designed to enhance the nation’s coastal management efforts. They include self-assessments for fishery businesses, water quality data enhancements, and the development of American Sign Language education modules.
St. Louis River Area of Concern Federal-State Partners Meeting
OR&R participated in the annual St. Louis River Area of Concern Federal-State Partners meeting in Duluth, MN, hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office with the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The St. Louis River Superfund site was listed on the National Priorities List in 1983, due to historical industrial operations along the river that released numerous hazardous chemicals into the environment. The St. Louis River/Interlake/Duluth Tar site was used for industrial purposes since 1890, where activities included coking plants, tar and chemical companies, the production of pig iron, meat packing, and a rail -to-truck transfer point for bulk commodities. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the primary contaminant of concern.
Ocean Warming Expands Range of Harmful Algal Blooms
A recent study led by NCCOS and Stony Brook University concludes that rising ocean temperatures are expanding the geographical range of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and intensifying the blooms themselves in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Using 35 years of satellite-based ocean temperature data to model trends in growth rates and bloom-season duration for two toxic algae, Alexandrium fundyense and Dinophysis acuminata, the research team established, for the first time, a quantitative link between increasing ocean temperatures and the expansion of HABs. As blooms extend to new areas, more people will be at risk of suffering the harmful physical effects of toxic algae. The authors note this could be of particular concern for residents of coastal south-central and southeast Alaska, one region where the model predicts expansion of blooms due to rising ocean temperatures.
NOAA Joins U.S. Delegation to Global Hydrographic Assembly
The International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) 2017 Assembly met in Monaco this week. The interagency U.S. delegation, led by the U.S. Department of Defense, included representatives from NOAA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Department of State. Foremost on the technical agenda were major initiatives on ocean mapping and data applications. The assembly also elected new IHO leadership for the next three years. NOAA Office of Coast Survey Director Rear Admiral Shepard Smith served as alternate head of the U.S. delegation. Established in 1921 as an intergovernmental organization charged with charting the oceans and fostering cooperation among member states (nations) for safe navigation, the IHO now numbers 87 member nations.
Worst-Case Discharge Exercise in Seattle
The U.S. Coast Guard and SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., led a waterfront worst-case discharge exercise on the Seattle waterfront. The exercise simulated a vessel collision at sea, resulting in the discharge of 80,000 barrels/3,360,000 gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil approximately 10 nautical miles west-northwest of Cape Flattery, WA. An incident command post was established, and approximately 250 personnel participated in the response, including eight OR&R staff and two employees of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Cape Flattery is the western entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the commencement of all shipping traffic heading to major West Coast ports in Washington State and Canada, including five oil refineries in Washington and one in Canada.
Enhancing Support for Coastal Communities and Economies
A Memorandum of Understanding between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering will increase both parties’ capacity to support coastal communities and economies. Of particular interest is the development of innovative approaches to nationwide ocean and coastal mapping, oil spill response, marine research, and coastal management. An upcoming addition to the partnership will be the completion of a real estate agreement for NOAA staff located at the university.
‘Sister Sanctuaries’ Collaborate to Protect Humpback Whales
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary protects humpback whales that feed and nurse in sanctuary waters. The migratory whales are also highly dependent on Caribbean waters, where they mate and give birth. The Sister Sanctuary Network was created to protect humpback whales beyond U.S. waters along their North Atlantic and Caribbean migratory route. With the recent addition of Yarari, the Caribbean Netherlands’ Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, the network grew by almost 7,000 square nautical miles. Starting with 638 square nautical miles off the coast of Massachusetts, the joint effort now encompasses nearly 195,000 square nautical miles.
New Seafloor Data for San Francisco Bay
OCM, the California Ocean Protection Council, and Fugro EarthData completed acoustic surveys for more than 500 square kilometers of San Francisco Bay. The surveys, which reveal the seafloor in fine detail, were collected in deep waters where pre-existing data was up to 30 years old. The data will be used to produce habitat maps needed to evaluate subtidal conditions, and will aid in tsunami modeling, sediment transport studies, essential fish habitat assessments, restoration siting, and conservation planning. The data and detailed reports are available in GIS-ready format on the Digital Coast.
Collecting a Ton of Shoreline Marine Debris
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and partners participated in two island cleanup events on California’s Santa Cruz Island. A wide variety of items were collected, including a real estate sign, tennis balls, milk crates, and trash bins and lids. Cleanup teams collected an estimated ton of debris, with much of the weight attributed to heavy lobster traps. Partners included the NOAA Marine Debris Program, local fishermen, California State University Channel Islands, Channel Islands National Park, Island Packers, Channel Islands Adventure Company, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, U.S.Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Zoo, Environmental Defense Center, and Channel Islands Naturalist Corps.
CAMEO Chemicals App Offers Hazardous Response Information
From hazards and incident response recommendations to public safety guidelines and chemical property information, OR&R's new CAMEO® Chemicals app lets emergency responders and planners learn more about thousands of hazardous chemicals. The app doesn’t require an internet connection, uses responsive design to adjust to tablets and phones, and includes a tool to predict whether an explosion, toxic fumes, or other safety hazard could occur were a group of chemicals mixed during an incident.
Assessment Prepares Communities for Coastal Threats
Scientists just completed a vulnerability assessment of the Choptank River Watershed Habitat Focus Area. Impacts from sea level rise and changes in precipitation can threaten valuable ecosystem services for the community. The threats were applied spatially across the region, prioritizing areas for specific adaptation strategies. The areas with the highest overall vulnerability and risk were generally located closest to the coast along the southwestern parts of the focus area, while the lowest overall vulnerability and risk areas were scattered throughout the central region. The assessment also established a framework based on stakeholder engagement to inform decision making for coastal flooding adaptation action that could be applied to other communities across the country. The project team included partners from NCCOS, OCM, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Habitat Blueprint, the Maryland CoastSmart Program, and Maryland Sea Grant.