August 29, 2008
Twentieth Meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
The 20th meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) took place from August 24-29 in Kona, Hawai'i. The theme of the meeting was Ola Nā Papa í Pūlama 'la (Cherish the Living Reef). The meeting highlighted conservation strategies, successes, and challenges in Hawaii and provided a forum for the USCRTF to hear about and discuss the priority threats facing reefs and innovative solutions and partnerships the USCRTF can explore to handle these threats. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force is co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and the Interior and includes leaders of 12 federal agencies, seven U.S. states and territories, and three freely associated states. For more information, contact Beth Dieveney.
Gulf of Mexico Alliance Workshop Highlights Success of Gulf States Partnership
During the week of August 18, more than 200 representatives from Gulf Coast States, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the Mexican Government convened in Corpus Christi, Texas, to celebrate successes of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and begin development of the second Governors’ Action Plan to improve the economy and the ecology of the Gulf Coast region. NOAA is a federal co-lead for this regional ocean governance structure and will continue its leadership within the Alliance for all priority issue areas in the Governors’ Action Plan, including nutrient reduction, water quality, habitat conservation and restoration, ecosystem integration and assessment, coastal community resilience, and environmental education. For more information, contact Nancy Wallace.
NOS and National Aquarium in Baltimore Collaborate on Restoration Sites
The National Geodetic Survey and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, are collaborating on monitoring existing restoration sites as part of an ongoing long-term evaluation of wetland restoration efforts within the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. The goal of the effort is to produce a vegetation classification map for the wetlands and relate vegetation community characteristics to light penetration. Algorithms relating wetland vegetation characteristics to light absorption may be used to increase the accuracy of remote sensing such as Light Detecting and Ranging (LIDAR) in detecting the elevation of wetland sediment surfaces. An outcome of the project will be an increase in the applicability of existing NOAA remote sensing data in support of coastal research and management in the face of global environmental change. For more information, contact Galen Scott or Nishanthi Wijekoon.
August 22, 2008
Marine Debris Removal from Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Staff from Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) recently returned from a successful cruise testing methods to remove derelict fishing gear from deep-water habitats on Cordell Bank off the coast of California. Using the sanctuary research vessel Fulmar and Phantom HD2 Remotely Operated Vehicle, staff successfully relocated and removed gill nets and long lines in depths ranging between 200 and 250 feet. One remarkable aspect of this cruise was the abundance and diversity of organisms – sponges, anemones, bryozoans, brittle stars – living on the old fishing gear. By working with local partners, staff were able to “salvage” much of the marine life. CBNMS is partnering with the SeaDoc Society at the University of California-Davis to use information from the cruise to develop a deep-water component in a manual on policies and procedures for removing derelict fishing gear. For more information, contact Dan Howard.
New Wetlands Education Center at the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve
On August 16, NOAA and University of Texas officials dedicated a new Wetlands Education Center at the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve in Port Aransas, Texas. Unique in the reserve system and among other environmental centers, the Mission-Aransas 3.6-acre constructed wetland will be used for school tours, teacher training, and adult educational programs and will be open to the general public. The facility includes a shallow tidal pond with floating docks for students and researchers to study marsh grasses, oyster beds, and water quality and a peripheral trail with shaded overlooks and interpretive signage. There is also a small shaded amphitheatre for group orientations. For more information, contact Matt Chasse.
Coastal Ocean Dead Zones Increasing at an Exponential Rate Worldwide
The number of areas in coastal waters with too little oxygen to support most marine life, otherwise known as dead zones, has greatly increased since the 1960s. Four hundred systems worldwide, including 166 in U.S. waters, now have documented dead zones. A paper published in Science by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science-funded researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, attributes this dramatic trend to increasing nutrient pollution and the burning of fossil fuels. Hypoxia, or low oxygen, can cause large-scale mortality of organisms living on or near the ocean bottom—organisms which mobile fish and crabs would naturally consume. The researchers estimate that in the Chesapeake Bay, about five percent of prey for mobile predators is lost due to hypoxia every summer. For more information, contact Libby Jewett.
August 15, 2008
NOAA Launches New Marine Weather Web Site
On August 14, NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program and the National Weather Service launched a new marine weather Web site. The Southeast Marine Weather Portal provides around-the-clock access to marine information for commercial and recreational communities within the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. Both coastal and offshore information is given for water temperature, waves, currents, salinity, and winds. Prior to the Web site expansion, only the Carolinas had access to this type of marine information. For more information, contact Jennie Lyons.
Update on the Mississippi Oil Spill
The Office of Response and Restoration continues to provide on-scene technical expertise for assessment and cleanup operations for the July 23 oil spill near downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. Last week, the salvage operations of the barge were successful. Remaining oil from the barge was transferred to a different ship, in a process known as lightering, and the bow and stern sections were removed separately. More than 200 miles of shoreline have been assessed for cleanup; 36 sites are currently listed as Special Concern. Cleanup operations continue along nearly 50 miles of river shoreline. The latest unofficial estimate of oiled birds observed was 736. Dredging has been intermittent this week due to the detection of oil in the spoils at the Heads of Passes near the Mississippi River mouth. A multi-agency team, including NOAA staff, is conducting regular sampling of sediments and water. For more information, contact John Tarpley.
Third NOAA Sentinel Installed at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) recently installed its third NOAA Sentinel at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana. NOAA Sentinels are water-level observing stations which have been strengthened to deliver real-time storm tide data during severe coastal events. These stations are built to withstand category four hurricanes. NOAA Sentinels measure and disseminate real-time water-level and meteorological observations. This information is critical for developing vulnerability assessments, providing more accurate marine weather and flood forecasts and evacuation planning and execution, determining when to open and close locks, and facilitating the reopening of ports after storms pass. All of this information helps coastal authorities prepare for, mitigate, and respond to storm tides generated by severe coastal storms. For more information, contact Bruce Servary.
August 8, 2008
Helping Managers Investigate Toxicity in Lobster Tomalley
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Program awarded funds to the States of Maine and New Hampshire to investigate the geographic extent and temporal variability of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins in lobster hepatopancreas (commonly called ‘tomalley’) and other lobster tissues. In mid-July, preliminary analyses by the Maine Department of Marine Resources revealed high levels of PSP toxins in tomalley of some lobsters. These findings prompted the Food and Drug Administration as well as Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, to issue advisory warnings against eating lobster tomalley. NOAA-supported event response research will provide information required for successful management of this fishery, such as the geographic extent of PSP toxins in lobster tomalley, the dietary source of the toxins for lobsters, and toxin retention time in lobster tissues. To learn more about the 2008 New England Red Tide, visit http://www.cop.noaa.gov/news/fs/ne_hab_2008.html. For more information, contact Quay Dortch.
NOS and Partners Respond to Tropical Storm Edouard
Following the recent passage of Tropical Storm Edouard, the Office of Coast Survey (OCS) was instrumental in providing survey support in Galveston, Texas, to search navigation channels for objects hazardous to navigation. Navigation Response Team personnel and the Navigation Manager for the Western Gulf of Mexico worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard to plan the response and determine where NOAA personnel and assets would be most beneficial and have the most impact. Side scan survey capability was provided by the flyaway system used in the response to Hurricane Dolly. OCS also used its Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for the first time to assist in clearing a channel, with support provided by the Hydrographic Systems and Technology Programs. For more information, contact Commander Alan Bunn.
Innovative Engineering Project to Obtain Cold Climate Water-level Data in Alaska
Engineers from the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services traveled to Barrow, Alaska, to assemble and deploy two tide gauge systems designed to collect water-level data in remote cold climate regions where there is a lack of physical infrastructure and problems with ice accumulation. The field crew braved the elements as the winds pushed the ice pack tightly against the Barrow coastline and successfully deployed the offshore gauges once the ice pack cleared. A continuous water record throughout the winter months at Barrow will add one more piece of information to the climate change puzzle by allowing long-term sea-level analysis and climate change monitoring. For more information, contact James Sprenke.
August 1, 2008
NOAA Response to Mississippi River Oil Spill
One week after a 600-foot chemical tanker and 200-foot fuel barge collided near downtown New Orleans, Louisiana, the Office of Response and Restoration continues to support the cleanup and assessment of an estimated 420,000 gallons of #6 fuel oil, a viscous tar-like oil. Oil from the barge is now spread over a hundred miles of the lower Mississippi River. The NOAA Scientific Support Team continues to support the U.S. Coast Guard and the Unified Command on a range of technical and scientific issues relating to the assessment and cleanup of the spill including potable water intakes for the downriver communities, cleaning of vessels contaminated by the spill, coordinating field shoreline assessments, developing a volunteer management plan, and working with the local resource agencies to conduct a preliminary natural resource damage assessment. For more information, contact Doug Helton.
NOS and Federal Partners Respond to Hurricane Dolly
The Office of Coast Survey was instrumental in responding to Hurricane Dolly's landfall in Brownsville, Texas. Navigation Response Team (NRT) personnel and the Navigation Manager for the Western Gulf of Mexico worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Texas Joint Hurricane Team to plan the response. For the first time, NRT personnel were able to utilize a portable "fly-away" survey system, including side scan sonar, and a vessel of opportunity, secured at the response site. The Brownsville Shipping Channel and surrounding area were surveyed for debris that would be hazardous to navigation, including granite blocks from the jetty, sunken vessels, and missing aids to navigation. Results were used to help make the determination to re-open the Port of Brownsville to ship traffic. For more information, contact Commander Larry Krepp.
West Coast Governors Announce Action Plan for Ocean Health
The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington launched a landmark action plan for the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health, in partnership with federal agency co-leads from NOAA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plan commits the three states to collaborate closely with federal agencies, as well as ocean users, academic institutions, the public, and other regional entities, on 26 bold actions to meet seven priority areas related to ocean protection. NOAA and other federal partners are providing the states with scientific expertise and other support that corresponds to the goals of the action plan. NOS staff members were key in developing the report and coordinating both the state and federal partners. For more information, contact Becky Smyth or Becky Pollock.