Lower Ship Speeds Protect Whales and Habitat in California Sanctuaries
The Port of Los Angeles recently recognized 11 shipping companies that voluntarily reduced ship speeds within and near national marine sanctuaries in California. Through non-regulatory cooperation between agencies and industry, vessels slowed to 12 knots or less during 143 trips through coastal channels. The voluntary incentive program, which ran from July 1–November 15, 2017, improved air quality—cutting more than 80 tons of smog-forming emissions—reduced ocean noise, and protected whales from lethal ship strikes.
West Coast Managers Gain Critical Planning Skills
Because the U.S. West Coast faces rising seas and tsunami threats, coastal managers in the region benefit from flood mapping and planning training. To address this, NOAA's Office for Coastal Management led a series of training sessions at national estuarine research reserves in California, Washington, and Oregon. Through hands-on exercises and lectures, course participants learned how to use elevation and tidal data to visualize storm surge, high tide flooding, sea level rise, and tsunami scenarios, allowing them to prepare for a host of potential impacts in their regions.
International Water Level Network
As a global leader in water level observations, NOAA's tides and currents office recently shared its technical expertise with the West African water level network MARINEMET. The World Meteorological Organization manages MARINEMET, which provides a variety of water level and meteorological sensors to 10 field stations in four African nations. The network recently experienced poor performance due to issues related to field system maintenance, sensor integration, field power, and real-time telemetry, among other challenges. CO-OPS shared several recommendations for addressing the network’s issues.
Documenting Conditions in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
The Office of Response and Restoration and the NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center assisted ONMS in conducting intertidal surveys at Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of San Francisco. The survey team established new long-term monitoring stations to document the ecological abundance and health of marine algae, sea grasses, and intertidal animals such as mussels, sea anemones, and sea stars. While the surveys are coordinated with existing coastal monitoring efforts, the sanctuary is implementing new protocols and additional stations to identify and catalog shoreline resources for several purposes, including determining baseline conditions in the event of an oil spill.
A New Format for Electronic Navigational Charts
Coast Survey recently released its 1:12,000 electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) of Massachusetts’s Merrimack River in the Raster Navigational Chart Tile Service format. The tile service renders a traditional depiction of the nautical chart for use with GPS-enabled electronic chart systems or other “chart plotter” display systems to provide real-time vessel positioning for recreational mariners. This version of the Merrimack River chart retains the look of a NOAA paper chart but is derived from the ENC charting database, giving users the opportunity to use ENC-only data with a traditional NOAA chart feel. The chart is included in single and quilted chart tile sets in both online and offline versions. This is the first time a navigational chart created solely as an ENC product is included in the tile service, though NOAA intends to incorporate all future charts that are produced only as ENCs into the service.
Acoustic Monitoring Reveals Hurricane Impact on Puerto Rico Reefs
Passive listening devices called hydrophones placed on Puerto Rico’s coral reefs recorded how marine life was disturbed during Hurricane Maria. The hydrophones recorded the “soundscape” before, during, and after the September 2017 Category 4 hurricane, revealing a decrease in fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity during and in the days following the storm. NCCOS scientists and partners installed the hydrophones at three sites off Puerto Rico’s southwest coast in early 2017 to demonstrate how sound can be used to understand environmental disturbances and assess ecosystem health. The use of this low-cost technology could help NOAA expand its capacity for long-term environmental monitoring and assessment. The researchers gave a presentation on their findings at the recent 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR.
Concluding Hurricane Maria Response in U.S. Virgin Islands
Office of Response and Restoration personnel salvaged the last marine vessel from the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), concluding operations for Hurricane Maria response there. Responders conducted pollution mitigation, displaced vessel salvage, and orphan container recovery operations across nearshore waters and shorelines of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. The response addressed pollution mitigation for, and the salvage or recovery of, 473 displaced vessels and 3,977 orphaned containers, propane cylinders, marine batteries, and other hazardous materials. OR&R and the NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center also relocated approximately 400 coral colonies as part of the response (the effort did not impact endangered sea turtles or other endangered species). In total, NOAA contributed more than 2,000 hours of collective on-scene support.
Symposium on 2016 Flower Garden Banks Mortality Event
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with U.S. IOOS and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, hosted a symposium in Galveston, TX, to further investigate the 2016 mortality event that occurred at East Flower Garden Bank. The event killed corals, sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, and other invertebrates in a localized area of the bank. Scientists who first responded to the event, and who represent a wide range of disciplines, attended the gathering. Principal investigators gave presentations on their hypotheses regarding the causes of the mortality event and on response activities. The symposium reinforced the need for enhanced and sustained observations in and around the sanctuary to support forecasting, analysis, and mitigation of future events. NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program helped facilitate the event, and NOS helped fund it.
Streamlining Nautical Chart Updates of USACE Projects
Up-to-date nautical charts are essential for providing mariners with accurate water depths and precise locations of structures at sea. One of the important ways that NOAA receives chart updates is through voluntary reporting of projects permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). To improve project status reporting, Coast Survey updated the Permit/Public Notice and Artificial Reef/Aquaculture forms. Modernized with semi-automated reset, attach, submit, and save buttons, fillable fields, and featuring the latest PDF viewer/editor software, the revised forms clarify the important information necessary to keep charts accurately updated.
National Geodetic Survey Launches its Latest Online Educational Video
NGS recently published its latest educational video geared toward surveying, mapping, and remote sensing professionals. The short video, Geodetic Control in Land Surveying: Active vs. Passive, is an example of NGS’s commitment to providing educational resources pertaining to the National Spatial Reference System, as well as information about other products and services. NGS, in partnership with The COMET® Program—a worldwide leader in support of education and training for the environmental sciences—has developed a library of videos on geodesy and mapping topics, all of which are available to view or download.
Sanctuaries Web Portal Reaches Out to Spanish-Speaking Community
ONMS launched a Spanish-language web portal called ¡Bienvenidos a los Santuarios Marinos Nacionales! (“Welcome to the National Marine Sanctuary System!”), expanding opportunities for engagement to a new audience that makes important economic contributions to fisheries and the ocean economy. Spanish is a predominant language in many communities, businesses, and collaborating agencies that operate and recreate in national marine sanctuaries. The portal contains translated information about NOAA's national marine sanctuary system, programs, partners, and marine conservation and education activities, as well as information about the National Marine Protected Areas Center.
Office for Coastal Management Recognized with LIDAR Leader Award
The International LIDAR Mapping Forum, a network of industry experts, awarded OCM second place in the Outstanding Team Achievement category of its LIDAR Leader Awards, recognizing OCM as being at the forefront of LIDAR distribution and a leader in the field. OCM spearheaded LIDAR data distribution from the earliest days of the technology, providing an inventory of collections and distributing the data in an efficient, user-friendly way. Today, OCM works to make data from a host of agencies and groups freely and publicly available through the Digital Coast, which maximizes the value of LIDAR collections and the cost-effectiveness of the technology.
Sanctuaries Celebrate African Americans’ Contributions to Maritime Culture
ONMS launched a story map celebrating the contributions that African Americans have made to the ocean, maritime traditions, and communities. The map shares stories of indomitable individuals, extraordinary acts of courage, and enduring traditions that represent part of the larger African American maritime tradition that helped build and shape the nation. The story map is the first of ONMS’s Heritage Months 2018 projects, a year-long program to honor the nation’s diverse maritime communities, cultures, and voices. Each of seven recognized heritage months will feature special online content and social media. ONMS also launched the new Heritage of the Blue website, home to multicultural content such as feature articles, story maps, staff profiles, and videos.
Training Modules Foster Improved Fisheries Governance in the Philippines
The Philippines face degraded ocean resources and illegal fishing, both of which are connected to the area’s equally challenging socioeconomics. The Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management balances environmental and socioeconomic concerns through improved fisheries governance. With help from CRCP, the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources introduced online training modules to support planning and implementation of the ecosystems approach to fisheries governance. Through the training, an array of stakeholders, including local government officials and fishing communities, can discover the benefits of a holistic approach to fisheries management, balancing ecological health and human well-being through good governance.
New Storm Surge and Tide Forecast System for Micronesia
OCS, local forecasting offices, and the National Weather Service Environmental Modeling Center collaborated to launch Micronesia’s new Extratropical Storm Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System (ESTOFS). ESTOFS-Micronesia will provide critical information about storm surge and tidal water levels. Micronesia’s lack of local water level observations is dramatic, and domain-wide tide and surge forecast guidance is much needed. ESTOFS-Micronesia covers Palau, Guam, the Marianas Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Wake Island—a territory that is home to more than half a million people as well as major U.S. Naval and Air Force bases. Initial implementation provides an unstructured model grid with resolution up to 200 meters at the coast, and upland nodes up to the 10-meter elevation contour to enable coastal inundation guidance.
‘Fire Whirls’ to Remediate Oil on Water
OR&R Director Dave Westerholm and senior OR&R staff visited the University of Maryland to hear Elaine Oran, PHD, present research on the use of fire whirls (commonly known as fire devils) to remediate oil on water. Fire whirls are a relatively clean burning technique with higher combustion efficiency and reduced emissions, particularly of soot. Fire whirls’ soot-free characteristic inspired their potential use as a more efficient solution for oil spill remediation. Researchers in Dr. Oran’s lab are studying the potential to create fire whirls in the field, characterize the burning rate, quantify emissions and burn residues, understand the limitations of their use, and evaluate their use as an oil spill remediation tool.