July 27, 2007
Ecological Forecasting Predicts ‘Dead Zone’ May Be Largest on Record
A team of scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and Louisiana State University (LSU) is forecasting that this summer the Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” of depleted oxygen off the Louisiana and Texas coasts may be the largest since measurements began in 1985. The NOAA-supported modeling effort predicts this summer’s Dead Zone may reach 8,500 square miles, an area the size of the state of New Jersey. The forecast is based on nitrate loads provided by the U.S. Geological Survey from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in May and incorporates the previous year’s conditions. This is an example of an innovative environmental service, officially referred to as "ecological forecasting” that NOAA scientists believe will become an important tool in coming years for both decision makers and the public. For more information, contact Dave.Whitall@noaa.gov or Alan.Lewitus@noaa.gov.
California Sanctuaries Welcome Vietnamese Counterparts
Staff members at California’s Cordell Banks and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries exchanged ideas and discussed issues relevant to marine protected areas (MPAs) with a visiting delegation from Vietnam. The Vietnamese Ministry of Fisheries MPA staff are reviewing their management plans and operations and are seeking information on MPA implementation elsewhere. The delegation learned about enforcement, managing an offshore location, research platforms, and education/outreach strategies, such as ways in which programs with limited budgets can be leveraged with coordinated volunteer programs (e.g., Beach Watch coastal monitoring). They also learned about sustainable fisheries and resource protection, as well as the structure and operation of the sanctuaries’ advisory councils. For more information, contact Dan.Howard@noaa.gov or Maria.Brown@noaa.gov.
Cape Cod Bay Surveys to Minimize Ship Strikes on Right Whales
On July 14, employees from the Office of Coast Survey at the University of New Hampshire completed a three-week bathymetric survey in western Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, aboard the NOAA Ship GLORIA MICHELLE. The surveyed area was identified by the U.S. Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service as the recommended route to mitigate ship strikes on North Atlantic right whales. This effort is part of the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping initiative, and the remainder of the area is scheduled to be completed by the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON this fall. For more information, contact Doug.Baird@noaa.gov.
July 20, 2007
NOAA Assists in Design of Dry Tortugas Research Natural Area
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science provided the National Park Service a summary report documenting trends in reef and shelf fish communities within the Dry Tortugas National Park (2001-2005) to assist in the design of the Research Natural Area (RNA) to be established this summer. The RNA, approximately 46 percent of the Park’s 100-square mile extent, will complement the Tortugas Ecological Reserve (TER) of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The RNA is considered an important component of this system of reserves because it adds shallow-water habitat to the deeper waters of the TER and provides both spawning and nursery habitat for economically important fisheries. For more information, contact John.Burke@noaa.gov.
Height Modernization Stakeholders Meet
Officials from NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS) met with State Geodetic Advisors and height modernization partners from various states in Denver, Colorado. The meeting focused on the upcoming issues with the height modernization program including the new, non-earmark-based funding approach undertaken by Congress. Participants also discussed where height modernization is today and where it should be in 10 years, which included identifying and prioritizing activities to reach long-term goals as well as defining the respective roles and responsibilities of NGS and its partners. For more information, contact Renee.Shields@noaa.gov.
NOAA Assists Gulf of Mexico Regional Alliance
Staff from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) attended the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration and Gulf of Mexico Alliance all-hands meeting last week in St. Petersburg, Florida, to establish priorities and further partnerships within the region. The Alliance reviewed successes and developed implementation plans to support the Governors’ Action Plan. OCRM facilitated the Nutrient Reduction Priority Issue Team (PIT) meeting and two additional workshops: Monitoring Standardization and Understanding Nutrient Dynamics and Effects. The PIT established next steps, including pilot studies, technical inventories and databases, and a hypoxia position paper. The PIT also established partnerships with other Alliance teams, including the new Resiliency Team, to conduct regional projects including a watershed assessment as well as community outreach and training. For more information, contact Laurie.Rounds@noaa.gov.
July 13, 2007
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Research Cruise Underway
A research cruise on the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai departed July 7 for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, carrying several National Marine Sanctuary Program staff members and researchers from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The research, which will help inform management of the monument, includes studying the health of the coral reef and inhabitants, conducting habitat mapping, exploring deep-sea communities, and studying how populations of marine organisms in different areas of the monument are linked to each other and elsewhere. The expedition will return on July 31. For more information, contact Andy.Collins@noaa.gov.
Northwest Shellfish Growers Get Real-time Data
Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest can now access near-real-time water-quality data from the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) operating at National Estuarine Research Reserves in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. Accurate and current water-quality data help shellfish growers spot potential problems with shellfish health. The data are available, thanks to the telemetering capability added to the SWMP last year, in order to strengthen the burgeoning Integrated Ocean Observing System. Through a Web site jointly sponsored by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, growers can view up-to-date water temperature, salinity, oxygen, turbidity, pH and chlorophyll data from reserves in Kachemak Bay, Alaska; Padilla Bay, Washington; and South Slough, Oregon. Additional data is tracked from four buoys operated by the University of Washington’s ORCA project in Hood Canal. For more information, contact Whit.Saumweber@noaa.gov.
Florida Puffer Fish Linked to Human Poisoning
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has clarified the issue of species of puffer fish associated with 28 human poisoning cases that occurred in January 2002 through May 2004 in Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York. The poisonings were traced to fish from the Indian River Lagoon, Florida. The NCCOS finding of probable involvement by only one of two potential species of puffer fish will simplify the ongoing investigation by field ecologists seeking the source of the toxin. Genetic assessment of 10 puffer fish specimens was completed by NCCOS at the request of the US Food and Drug Administration. For more information, contact Wayne.Litaker.@noaa.gov.
July 6, 2007
Changes to Boston Shipping Lanes to Protect Whales
On July 1, for the first time in the nation’s history, shipping lanes in and out of Boston were shifted to reduce the threat of ship strikes on critically endangered right whales and other species in and around the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Thanks in large part to extensive research conducted by National Marine Sanctuary Program staff, the International Maritime Organization approved the decision to shift the heavily traveled shipping lanes slightly to the northeast—a move that will reduce the risk of ship collisions with right whales by up to 58 percent and other whale species by up to 81 percent. For more information, contact Anne.Smrcina@noaa.gov.
New Technique to Identify Wounds on Entangled Marine Mammals
Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) are using ArcGIS software from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.) to identify wound markings on the skin of entangled marine mammals. The markings are "mapped" and compared to simulated impressions from various fishing gear, nets, and lines. This method allows the researchers to match the actual wound patterns to the unique characteristics of specific fishing gear. When animals are found stranded but no gear is attached to their bodies, the technique can be used to identify the type of fishing gear that entangled them. For more information, contact Leslie.Burdett@noaa.gov.
Shoreline Training to Increase Efficiency
The National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division recently held shoreline compilation training for representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of New Hampshire. This training will help them collect and compile shoreline data that meet the high standards necessary for NOAA nautical charts. The training is part of the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping effort led by the National Ocean Service. The objective is to leverage federal, academic, and nongovernmental capabilities to increase the efficiency and ease of data sharing between agencies. For more information, contact Adam.Dunbar@noaa.gov.