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February 28, 2003

NOAA Responds to Recent Oil Spill in Long Island Sound

NOAA spill response experts were dispatched to Long Island Sound on Feb. 14, after a barge carrying 2 million gallons of oil hit a submerged rock and released oil into the water. The tanker spilled 2,500 gallons of oil after several of its tank compartments ruptured. NOAA scientific support coordinator Ed Levine, who works with the NOS Office of Response and Restoration, provided on-scene weather forecasts, spill trajectories and information about the natural resources in the area to the U.S. Coast Guard. This information was critical in the decision to move the leaking barge to a protected harbor before a storm moved into the area. For more information and to view photographs of the spill, read NOAA News.

NOAA Hosts Coral Reef Task Force Meeting

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, hosted by NOAA, is meeting this week (Feb. 26-27) in Washington, D.C., to discuss the next steps in implementing its National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs. The task force, which consists of the heads of 11 federal agencies, the governors of seven states and territories, and the presidents of three freely associated states, is considering new actions related to the coral species trade industry and water quality issues affecting U.S. reefs. For more information, view the Coral Reef Information System Web site or contact Roger Griffis at (301) 713-2989 x115.

Habitat Maps for Pribilof Islands, Alaska Completed

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, recently completed an extensive mapping project of the Pribilof Islands, Alaska. The unprecedented mapping project, which was conducted on a 1:25,000 scale, includes four, standard-sized topographic maps for both St. George and St. Paul Islands, which are the only two inhabited islands of the Pribilof archipelago. Both islands primarily are populated by indigenous Aleutians.

The maps identify sensitive habitat areas of migratory birds and marine mammals and will be used to support environmental restoration projects on the islands. The data is being shared with the native Aleut population to plan for sustainable land use, economic development and resource management. Original Aleut names were identified for many geographic features on the islands in an effort to acknowledge and preserve the historical and linguistic heritage of the native population. As a result, many of the geological features on the maps are labeled in both English and Aleut. For more information, contact John Lindsay at (206) 526-4560.

February 14, 2003

New NOS Web Site Tracks Sea Level Changes

Coastal zone managers, climate researchers and others now will be able to track the latest trends in sea level, thanks to a new Web site—Sea Levels Online —devoted to monitoring sea level trends on a regular basis. The Web site allows users to search for and display long-term trends, averages and irregularities. The site will be updated monthly and takes advantage of information that is gathered from a vast network of 117 coastal water level stations, operated by NOAA’s National Ocean Service. The Web site also includes information that allows users to view seasonal cycles, and annual and decadal variations in sea level. The Web site is maintained by NOS’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, which maintains and operates all of NOS’s tidal and water level stations, including the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. For more information, read NOAA News.

Fishing Vessel Cited for Illegal Shrimp Trawling in Tortugas Ecological Reserve

NOAA recently fined a fishing vessel $20,000 for illegal shrimp trawling in a protected section of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary last December. The U.S. Coast Guard cited the Miss Christine V on Dec. 16, 2002, for illegal shrimp trawling inside the Tortugas Ecological Reserve and escorted the vessel to Key West. There, a NOAA agent seized its catch of 1,117 lbs. of pink shrimp. The $1,733 proceeds from the sale of the shrimp are in escrow pending settlement of the case.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is part of National Marine Sanctuary Program, administered and managed by NOAA’s National Ocean Service. For more information, read the press release (pdf, 56 Kb).

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Participates in JASON XIV: From Shore to Sea Expedition

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary recently concluded its involvement with the national JASON XIV: From Shore to Sea Expedition. The JASON Project involves students and teachers directly in underwater exploration. More than 1 million students and 2,500 teachers worldwide participated in the year-long expedition, via online chats, digital labs, and curriculum implementation.

Approximately 7,000 students from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties participated in hands-on activities and viewed the live broadcasts at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center, Carp Middle School, and Cabrillo High School Aquarium. In addition, noted explorer Dr. Robert Ballard gave two lectures about the expedition—one in Santa Barbara, Calif., where 1,200 people attended, and another in Ventura, Calif., where 950 people attended.

Channel Islands sanctuary staff remained actively engaged in the expedition, providing support for live, underwater broadcasts and access to viewing sites. Staff also conducted hands-on educational activities and interacted with national and local media. The From Shore to Sea curriculum will continue in the region for several more years. For more information, contact Claire Johnson, West Coast Education Liaison, at (805) 963-3341.

February 7, 2003

NOAA Response Experts Help NASA Track Columbia’s Breakup

NOAA’s Region 6 Response Team was activated Feb. 1 to help NASA respond to the Columbia space shuttle disaster. Response experts were asked to determine if NOAA could provide airborne monitoring of the particulate cloud that resulted from the shuttle disaster. Data from the network of NOAA’s wind profilers usually is used to help forecast the weather. In this case, the network provided NASA with wind data that helped determine the speed and direction at which the space shuttle’s debris fell, as well as the size of its particles. Experts at NOAA’s Forecast Systems Laboratory determined that the particulate cloud resulting from the shuttle breakup would have dispersed within 24 to 48 hours. The response team, part of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, continues to be involved in the disaster response. For more information, read NOAA News or contact LCDR Mike Devany at (206) 526-6949.

Discovery Channel To Feature NOS Pfiesteria Toxin Research

This year, the Discovery Health Channel series Diagnosis: Unknown will feature a documentary on Pfiesteria piscicida and will highlight the research conducted into the phenomenon by NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS). Pfiesteria outbreaks are linked to major fish kills and fish diseases.

A Discovery Channel film crew recently visited NOS’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, S.C., to interview key scientists and film re-enactments of their research breakthroughs about the algae and its associated effects. The program, which is scheduled to air later this spring, also will present Pfiesteria research conducted by the University of Maryland and Duke University.

The Diagnosis: Unknown series reports factual accounts of how organisms, sometimes too small to be seen by the naked eye, can challenge the best technology and medicine. The series airs worldwide on the Discovery Health Channel, with U.S. showings on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 p.m. For more information, contact John Ramsdell at (843) 762-8510.

NOS Helps Louisiana Measure Sinking Highway

NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) is helping the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Corps of Engineers measure the amount and rate of subsidence along Highway 1 in Grand Isle, La. The composition of the soil under Highway 1, which is especially important because it is a major hurricane evacuation route for Lafourche and Jefferson Parishes, makes it particularly vulnerable to subsidence. A team from NOS’s National Geodetic Survey is using global positioning system equipment to re-measure the elevation of points along the route, which will help determine areas that likely will be flooded during storms. This information also will help the state plan for evacuations. For more information, please contact Bob Zurfluh.

NOS Responds to Louisiana Oil Spill

Response experts from NOAA’s National Ocean Service and other resource trustees are responding to an oil spill from a pipeline in northwest Terrebonne Bay, La. The spill, which was reported January 30, extends from a few miles southeast of Cocodrie to barrier islands located 10 to 15 miles to the south and southwest. Shell Oil Company, which has claimed responsibility for the spill, estimates that about 160 barrels were released. The oil could potentially affect salt marshes, sand beaches, fish and shellfish populations, and birds. Shell has begun working with responders to develop a cooperative damage assessment and has already collected water and sediment samples. For more information, contact Tony Penn at (301) 713-3038 x197.


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