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Weekly News: March 2008
March 2008

March 28, 2008
March 14, 2008
March 7, 2008


March 28, 2008

Marine Forensics Support Federal Enforcement
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science recently analyzed over 100 pieces of evidence in a case involving multiple violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by a Florida fisherman.  DNA analysis identified fillets as red snapper, mutton snapper, and cobia.  These findings were used by NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement to cite violations resulting in civil penalties of $16,000 and a 45-day permit sanction for the owner and the operator of the vessel.  Forensic support can be critical in deciding whether or not certain civil or criminal penalties against suspected poachers are justified and can serve as a future deterrent to the illegal use of marine resources.  For more information, contact or

Decommissioning of NOAA Ship RUDE
On March 25, NOAA senior leadership and other personnel traveled to the Marine Operations Center-Atlantic, in Norfolk, Virginia, to participate in the decommissioning ceremony of the NOAA Ship RUDE after 41 years of service.  At 90 feet and 220 tons displacement, the RUDE was the smallest ship in the NOAA Fleet.  The vessel was used for inshore hydrographic surveys, specifically for the location and accurate positioning of submerged hazards to navigation along the U.S. Atlantic coast in support of the Office of Coast Survey and NOAA's nautical charting mission.  The RUDE was also called upon to assist the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy in search, rescue, and recovery operations.  For more information, contact

Marine Debris Research Cruise Underway from Hawaii
A 17-day cruise (March 24-April 9) on the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE is under way to test a number of technologies to detect and possibly remove marine debris from the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone.  The cruise is being led by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, with support from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  Personnel from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and Airborne Technologies, Inc., a company based in Alaska, round out the marine debris scientific crew.  Debris will be spotted using powerful binoculars and from an unmanned aerial system that can stream video back to the ship.  The scientists will attempt to attach tracking buoys to large bundles of debris, mainly derelict fishing gear.  Smaller pieces of debris will be brought on board the ship and transported back to Oahu.  For more information, contact



March 14, 2008

NOAA Releases Deep Sea Coral Report to Congress
On March 13, NOAA released the first report to Congress on the Implementation of the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program, called for in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA).  Prepared under the auspices of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and in consultation with the Nation's eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, the report provides information on steps taken by NOAA and its partners to identify, monitor, and protect deep sea coral areas.  Sections provide a brief discussion of current knowledge and knowledge gaps about deep sea corals, NOAA’s expertise and authorities to conserve deep sea coral communities, and summaries of management actions taken by NOAA, the Fishery Management Councils, other federal agencies, and international organizations in 2007.  The final section highlights research priorities for 2009 and recommendations for addressing knowledge gaps.  For more information, contact or

Public Comment Sought on Sanctuary Zoning Options
Six sub-zoning scenarios for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) are now available on the Web for public comment at, and will be presented at five public meetings in March 2008 in coastal communities of Georgia and South Carolina.  At a January 31, 2008, Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting, representatives from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) presented five boundary scenarios for a sub-zone within GRNMS to be used for scientific research.  These options, plus an additional scenario developed at the meeting, represent the culmination of a multiyear geographic information system analysis developed by NCCOS to aid sanctuary and council staff in optimally placing a research area.  This analysis helps GRNMS select an area for scientific research while minimizing the displacement of user activities.  For more information, contact

Oceans and Human Health Day at Ocean Sciences Meeting
Oceans and human health was featured in a well-attended, full-day session, co-chaired by NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative (OHHI) and the National Science Foundation-National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Centers for Oceans and Human Health, at the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting.  This meeting allowed OHHI to showcase developments in the growing field of oceans and human health, helping to make the connections between multiple disciplines of ocean and medical sciences in order to answer complex human health questions.  Recent discoveries presented at the meeting included topics such as antibiotic resistance in sick and stranded marine wildlife and the development of biological sensors to detect disease threats in the ocean.  For more information, contact



March 7, 2008

Update on Multi-agency Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project
The Office of Coast Survey and Office of Response and Restoration met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and State of Louisiana to present NOAA’s plans for offshore survey and information management under the Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project Second Supplemental.  This supplemental funding from Congress allows NOAA to survey offshore areas in Louisiana known to have marine debris deposited by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to provide survey data to debris removal operations and the public.  NOAA will also help identify debris removal targets, assist the U.S. Coast Guard with project execution and communication, and post maps and survey data on the project’s Web site.  For more information, contact

Importance of Shallow-water Habitats to Top Predators in Hawaii
Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), with support from the NCCOS-National Marine Sanctuary Program Long-Term Agreement, have determined that algae and coral growing on the seafloor, rather than oceanic phytoplankton, serve as the food web base supporting large predatory fish in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM).  The important role of submerged plant communities in shallow-water reef habitats suggests that changes to this habitat, including less sunlight reaching the bottom, could significantly affect top predators.  Large top predators, such as sharks and jacks, represent over half of all fish biomass in the PMNM, which is among the few apex predator-dominated coral reef ecosystems in the world.  Research conducted in this relatively undisturbed and isolated reef ecosystem will improve the ability to forecast impacts of environmental change and human activities on marine ecosystems and fishery production.  For more information, visit
or contact

NOAA Explores Underwater Habitats of Southwest Puerto Rico
From February 25 through March 8, NOAA’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) conducted its fifth year of an ongoing scientific research mission onboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.  The primary objective of the 2008 mission, funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and the CCMA, was to collect and integrate data obtained from a multi-beam acoustic sonar system and data obtained from underwater imagery systems to create the first comprehensive map of coral ecosystems.  Other project objectives include imaging and documenting the spatial distribution, abundance, and condition of fish, coral reefs, and fishery resources.  Data generated during this mission will support natural resource management in federal and state waters of Puerto Rico and help NOAA continue to meet its commitment to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force to map moderate depth (20-1000 meters) coral reef ecosystems.  For more information, visit the mission Web page or contact or


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