Weekly News: August 2006
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently added elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals to the Endangered Species Act’s list of threatened species. These are the first coral species to be placed on the list. NMFS must develop special regulations to spell out prohibitions and exemptions by the end of this year. NMFS must also decide if or how to designate critical habitat for these corals and develop and implement a plan for the recovery of the species. To meet these requirements, NMFS sponsored seven public Acropora Conservation Workshops to gather information for the designation of critical habitat. Relevant information gathered from stakeholders at these meetings will be incorporated into future rulemaking. A summary of collected information is available at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdf/080706_Acropora_Workshop_Summary.pdf. Outcomes of the process will impact research and management actions of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, part of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. For more information, contact Jennifer.Moore@noaa.gov or Sarah.Heberling@noaa.gov.
The NOAA Coastal Services Center has released a report titled, "Residential Docks and Piers: Inventory of Laws, Regulations, and Policies for the New England Region." The publication, free from the Center's Web site, compares state tactics for managing residential docks and piers in easy-to-use tables. Coastal managers throughout the nation face challenges in managing the aesthetic, environmental, navigational, and public-access impacts of dock and pier growth. For a copy of the report, visit http://www.csc.noaa.gov/products/New_England_Dock_Pier_Inventory.pdf or contact Zac.Hart@noaa.gov.
On July 15, an Israeli missile attack struck a power plant on the Mediterranean coast, less than 20 miles south of Beirut. The strike caused a release of approximately 4.6 million gallons of fuel oil into the surrounding coastal waters. The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) immediately responded with spill trajectory analyses, seasonal wind statistics, information on the behavior of submerged oil, and general information on natural resources potentially at risk. The U.S. State Department, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, and the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon are currently coordinating with the United Nations Environmental Program, European emergency response agencies, and local Lebanese officials to develop a cleanup strategy and address the impacts of spilled oil on the region.
Representatives from the California Spatial Reference Center (CRSC) and NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (NGS) recently completed work on an innovative new product called the "Pocket GPS Manager." The CSRC and NGS developed this software suite to improve the exchange of global positioning system (GPS) information between users in the field and their central offices or repositories. Specifically, the product allows GPS information to be exchanged using Web services rather than hand-written field logs. With height modernization projects to increase the accuracy of elevation measurements and large-scale mapping projects underway in California, the product is designed to provide a well-defined, flexible, and platform-independent system to improve the efficiency of GPS surveys with modern information technologies. Development platforms include handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Windows XP operating systems. For more information, contact Mark.Eckl@noaa.gov.
A handbook on best practices for marine managed areas boundary-making is available after two years of planning across federal and state agencies and programs. This 66-page handbook provides a brief, useful "best practices" guide for writing boundary descriptions within a geographic information systems framework for federal, state, or local marine managed areas. The handbook was a development effort contributed to by boundary experts across federal and state government, under the auspices of the Federal Geographic Data Committee's marine boundary working group. For more information, or to receive a copy of the publication, contact Meredith.Westington@noaa.gov or Cindy.Fowler@noaa.gov.
The Office of Coast Survey recently attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to begin construction on a new artificial reef at Redfish Point in Vermillion Bay, Louisiana. The Vermilion Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association led this effort in collaboration with NOAA, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and a grant in part from Shell Oil. Coast Survey Regional Navigation Managers provided assistance in site selection, determination of reef type, and documentation for the project, charting it as a "fish haven" on NOAA charts. The addition of 3,500 tons of crushed limestone to the project area is expected to improve marine habitat and biodiversity in the bay and revive a once thriving reef ruined by Hurricane Rita. For more information, contact Tim.Osborn@noaa.gov.
NOAA Coral Reef Watch, a part of the Coral Reef Conservation Program, is now offering an Experimental Doldrums Product that identifies and tracks regions of sustained low windspeed. This information can help coral reef managers and scientists better assess conditions that may lead to coral bleaching. Wind is an important physical factor influencing conditions leading to bleaching. Wind-driven mixing of water reduces temperature stress and wind-generated waves can scatter harmful levels of incoming solar radiation. Periods of sustained low wind may therefore promote environmental conditions adverse to corals experiencing thermal and/or ultraviolet (UV) stress. Remote sensing data provided by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is used by the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service Marine Observing Systems Team to derive ocean surface winds and assemble them on a global grid. These grids are available in a series of image formats and formatted for Google Earth at http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/doldrums/. For more information, contact Mark.Eakin@noaa.gov.
Results from a multi-agency mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands, led by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), will assist marine resource managers in evaluating management action effectiveness by providing them with updated coral reef ecosystem data and an assessment of ecological linkages via acoustic tracking of fishes. One preliminary determination from this mission, which included over 500 dives off of St. John, is that live coral cover outside the Virgin Island Coral Reef National Monument (VICRNM) has been reduced from patches of 40-60 percent to about 20 percent. These data, gathered in a water depth of approximately 25 meters outside the VICRNM, indicate the reductions may be due to impacts from coral bleaching and disease in 2005 and 2006. This mission was conducted July 7-30, 2006, by NCCOS, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of Hawaii. For more information, please contact Mark.Monaco@noaa.gov.
A new multi-agency report, Harmful Algal Research and Response: A Human Dimensions Strategy, provides a detailed implementation plan for human dimensions research necessary to reduce the public health, sociocultural, and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms.The report provides information critical to implement the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Amendments Act of 2004, offers an implementation strategy for "Public Health and Socioeconomic Impacts" recommendations of the National Plan for Algal Toxins and Harmful Algal Blooms, and substantially informs priorities of the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology and Subcommittee on Integrated Management of Ocean Resources. The report grew out of a workshop funded by the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. The strategy complements CSCOR’s Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms program and a multi-agency Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms partnership. The report is available online at: http://www.coastalscience.noaa.gov/stressors/extremeevents/hab/HDstrategy.pdf. For more information, contact Marybeth.Bauer@noaa.gov.
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) issued an Invasive Species Bulletin last week warning of the potential for the non-native Red Sea Bannerfish (Heniochus intermedius) to survive and breed in new locations. This fish was recently sighted on Paul's Reef off Palm Beach, Florida. NCCOS scientists are using information from taxonomic and monitoring studies to assess the risk of the Bannerfish altering the ecological balance of invaded ecosystems. The Red Sea Bannerfish is native to the Red Sea, but is sold in the United States as a saltwater aquarium fish and is one of several exotic aquarium fish species that have been photographed or captured in recent years living on reefs off southern Florida. This bulletin was developed in response to an alert issued by the United States Geological Survey's Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Alert System, with which NCCOS is collaborating to provide information and tools for aquatic resource managers dealing with aquatic invasive species. For more information, go to http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/stressors/invasivespecies/RedSeaBannerfish.html or contact Elaine.Hoagland@noaa.gov or Karen.Eason@noaa.gov.
NOAA and the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve (GNP) have established a partnership with one another to help the GNP effectively manage ecosystem challenges and meet the long-term goals and objectives. In April 2006, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program received a request for technical assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development to help the GNP develop a pilot mooring buoy project in the Galapagos. In response, after dealing with the logistics of assembling and transporting mooring buoy installation equipment and materials to the Galapagos, staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary traveled to the Galapagos to meet with GNP staff; give presentations; and conduct training in the installation, use, and maintenance of mooring buoys. Eight mooring buoys using embedment anchor technology were established during the course of training (the first in the Galapagos), to initiate the GNP mooring buoy pilot project. For more information, contact Brady.Phillips@noaa.gov.
Mercury concentrations in most North Carolina reef fish, the mainstay of the recreational head boat fishery, are below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) level of concern for human consumption. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science found that most of the 37 species of bottom-dwelling reef fish collected from reef habitats off the North Carolina coast have mercury concentrations significantly less than the EPA's criterion of concern for human consumption, 0.3 parts per million (ppm), in their edible tissues. An exception is red porgy (Pagurus pagurus), for which concentrations averaged 0.52 ppm. This exception is surprising because red porgy are reported to consume crustaceans with low mercury concentrations. Ongoing analyses of stomach contents of the collected fish will clarify the potential for food web transfers of mercury and will provide inputs to models of mercury bioaccumulation through several coastal ecosystems of concern to NOAA. The more than 1,000 fish were collected by researchers from the National Marine Fisheries Service for a project looking at long-term changes in the reef fish community. For more information, contact David.W.Evans@noaa.gov.
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