Weekly News: December 2005
In support of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center’s (NGDC’s) efforts to build a comprehensive tsunami impact model, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has provided a suite of bathymetry data for the U.S. Caribbean and Pacific territories. NCCOS provided high resolution, multispectral (consisting of several “bands” of data) imagery collected by the IKONOS satellite. This imagery was presented with inferred bathymetry, originally used for benthic habitat mapping, for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Main Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. NCCOS also provided sixty square nautical miles of high-resolution multibeam bathymetry and a historical bathymetry model derived from NGDC’s GEOphysical DAta System (GEODAS) archival soundings. This sharing of multi-purpose data across NOAA expands the usefulness of the information beyond its original project scope and allows cooperation in support of integrated ocean and coastal mapping. Once completed, the tsunami impact model will be used to plan for coastal land use and future disaster recovery efforts. For more information, contact Ada.Otter@noaa.gov or Lisa.A.Taylor@noaa.gov.
The Community Vulnerability Assessment Tool (CVAT), which provides a step-by-step process for conducting a hazards risk and vulnerability assessment, was featured on the Community Risk Assessment Toolkit ProVention Consortium Web site. The ProVention Consortium is a coalition of governments, international organizations, academic institutions, and private sector organizations that work to reduce the impact of disasters in developing countries. The tool was developed by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center to help communities identify hazard risks and aid them in creating hazard mitigation plans. For more information, contact Tashya.Allen@noaa.gov or view the toolkit online at: http://www.proventionconsortium.org/CRA_toolkit.htm.
The insertion of herbicide and antibiotic resistant genes into selected crops creates the potential for gene flow out of agricultural areas into adjoining environments. NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) helped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Review Panel to review current environmental risk from genetically modified crops. The international panel includes representatives from North America, Europe, and Australia. The current EPA risk assessment was reviewed and recommendations were made by the panel regarding the safety and efficacy of these crops. The comments by the panel will be summarized into a final document and provided to the EPA. For more information, contact Geoff.Scott@noaa.gov.
The National Marine Sanctuary Program launched a new 57-foot law enforcement vessel, the PETER GLADDING, on December 14, 2005, in Bellingham, Washington. Training for NOAA operators will begin in the Seattle area in 2006. It is anticipated that the Gladding will be ready for service in the Florida Keys in late February. The vessel will be used in law enforcement efforts in the Lower Keys, primarily in the waters between mainland Florida and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. For more information, contact Dave.Lott@noaa.gov.
In response to a request from the National Park Service (NPS), the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science calculated sea floor (benthic) habitat acreage estimates of the marine sections of Virgin Islands National Park, Coral Reef National Monument, and Buck Island National Monument, all in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NPS will include these estimates in their General Management Plans for these three park units. Managers and planners will use the estimates as baselines for drafting plans for activities that occur in and around the parks, especially for proposing updates to recreational use regulations in park marine zones. For more information, contact Kate.Eschelbach@noaa.gov.
The Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center held two public meetings on the West coast to provide an update, answer questions, and gather views on the effort to develop a national system of MPAs. The meetings took place in San Francisco and Seattle. Approximately 70 representatives of coastal states and counties, tribes, federal agencies, recreational and commercial fisheries, sport divers, conservation organizations, academic institutions, and other groups provided perspectives on MPAs. Issues discussed included regional marine resources, tribal MPA consultations, MPA uses, and insights on how a national system could benefit the West coast region. Members of the MPA Federal Advisory Committee provided an overview of the committee's recommendations to develop a national MPA system. These meetings were the fourth and fifth in a series of regional dialogues scheduled around the country to gather input to develop the framework for the national system of MPAs. A list of participants and responses from each meeting are available online at: http://www.mpa.gov/national_system. For more information, contact Jonathan.Kelsey@noaa.gov.
The Office of Response and Restoration's Scientific Support Coordinator responding to oil spills related to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana coordinated an in-situ burn plan for the Bass South facility spill. The burn was mostly in wooded wetlands and forest that had been oiled. Approximately 50 acres of marsh was burned. The burn plan was approved by the members of Regional Response Team VI (RRT), under the National Contingency Plan. Members of the RRT include NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, contact William.D.Whitmore@noaa.gov.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Team OCEAN Program assisted Friends and Volunteers of Refuges (FAVOR) with their shoreline cleanup of the Lower Keys National Wildlife Refuges. Numerous volunteers helped bag and bundle marine debris left by Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, and Rita. Volunteers cleaned the remote beaches of Woman Key and Boca Grande (islands about twelve miles west of Key West) and piled trash above the high tide line for pickup. Team OCEAN staff and a volunteer transported the accumulations back to Key West. The results of the cleanup weighed in at roughly 2,175 pounds. For more information, contact Sera.Harold@noaa.gov.
Several NOS offices have partnered with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)-Vietnam, the Vietnam Ministry of Fisheries, Conservation International, the World Wildlife Foundation, Danida, and the U.S. Embassy to provide management capacity training in support of a developing marine protected area (MPA) network in the South China Sea region. In December 2005, 35 MPA practitioners from Cambodia, Vietnam, and China gathered in Nha Trang, Vietnam for the first MPA Management Capacity Building pilot project. The South China Sea region was selected from nine regional candidate sites because of the strong existing partnership between NOAA, IUCN, and the Ministry of Fisheries. Nha Trang was selected as the host city because it is the site of the first fully implemented MPA in a network of fifteen MPAs in Vietnam. An international team conducted management capacity training for the participants and mentorship training for eight representatives. National Marine Sanctuary staff tailored the curriculum to regional needs, covering eight topical areas during the two weeks of training. Training covered subjects such as zonal management, community-based management, and management planning. The training includes a year-long follow-up program, to support the partnership and ensure the implementation of lessons learned and that advanced training needs are met. For more information, contact Anne.Walton@noaa.gov or Jon.Justi@noaa.gov.
The Office of Coast Survey is now offering its Raster Navigational Charts for free download online at: http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov. The files offered are geo-referenced, full-color images of NOAA's paper nautical charts and are published and updated by NOAA in the .BSB format. The charts are an important and successful contributor to safe and efficient marine transportation. They have been incorporated into international standards for electronic chart systems and have been accepted as meeting U.S. federal chart carriage regulations for a certain class of vessels. For more information, contact Jim.Gardner@noaa.gov.
Widespread bleaching or the loss of symbiotic algae occurred in 21 coral species or 53 percent of corals at randomly selected sites in the Buck Island National Reef Monument, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands during October 16-27. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the South Florida-Caribbean Network of National Parks found that some species were more than 90 percent bleached, whereas other corals had no bleaching. Based on satellite data from the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, water temperatures in the northeastern Caribbean were warmer than normal for about 12 weeks and may have contributed to the observed bleaching event. Prolonged bleaching can be lethal to corals and, along with disease and pollution, may have contributed to the loss of about 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs within the past decade. For more information, contact Chris.Jeffrey@noaa.gov or Randy.Clark@noaa.gov, or visit http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/ecosystems/coralreef/reef_fish.html.
In an ongoing partnership with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, offices from NOS and the National Marine Fisheries Service, along with scientists, academics, and nongovernmental organizations, have developed Conservation Action Plans to be applied across Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This week, species conservation plans will be published for three marine migratory species, including the humpback whale, the pink-footed shearwater, and leatherback turtle. This is the first tri-national conservation plan ever developed for North American wildlife species. To view the plans, visit: http://www.cec.org. For more information, contact Lynne.Mersfelder@noaa.gov.
In the aftermath of storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey deployed its Navigation Response Teams (NRTs) and Navigation Managers to impacted port areas, and NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations deployed hydrographic survey vessels, as part of a coordinated response effort. The NRTs responded to the numerous tropical storms and major catastrophic hurricanes during this past season, and went above and beyond the call of duty, working around the clock in some instances. The teams conducted hazardous obstructions surveys through the use of diving operations, electronic navigation capture, data collection, and mapping. The NOAA Navigation Managers coordinated activities with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy, and local and state governments. NOAA hydrographic survey support directly contributed to the re-opening of ports to maritime commerce and emergency response vessels. Until NOAA's hydrographic surveys were completed, commercial vessels were limited in their ability to safely navigate, especially in the Gulf Coast ports and waterways affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For more information, contact Howard.Danley@noaa.gov or Rick.Fletcher@noaa.gov.
NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration continues to support the Unified Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Coast Guard response to hazardous chemical and oil spills and containers left in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While oil response issues are waning, HAZMAT container response is growing. There are thousands of HAZMAT containers that require either recovery or mitigation by pumping container contents to remove hazardous chemical threats. Many of these containers are leaking, and most are in sensitive wetland habitats that restrict access by heavy equipment. NOAA has taken the lead for coordination of best practices guidance and permit consensus. The Unified Command expects the recovery operation will take six months. For more information, contact Charlie.Henry@noaa.gov.
On November 25, a milestone was achieved when NOAA's Office of Coast Survey submitted the first "H-Cell" for charting. The H-Cell is a digital map of a hydrographic survey which is fully compliant with international data standards. These H-Cells are used for updating and creating Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs). The H-Cell will replace the method used to update raster and conventional paper charts. It is anticipated that this new method will provide much higher quality ENCs and will greatly increase the efficiency with which new hydrographic survey data is made available to the maritime community. For more information, contact: Jerry.Mills@noaa.gov.
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