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Weekly News: February 2008
February 2008

February 29, 2008
February 22, 2008
February 15, 2008
February 8, 2008
February 1, 2008


February 29, 2008

Lionfish Predation Could Impact Fisheries
The first documented evidence of non-native lionfish predation on snapper and grouper suggests that lionfish could impact economically important snapper/grouper fisheries.  National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers, in collaboration with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, observed lionfish preying on two economically important species, Nassau grouper and yellowtail snapper.  While the frequency of lionfish predation on these species is unknown, future stomach content analyses will reveal the relative importance of snapper/grouper species to the lionfish diet.  The potential impacts of lionfish in sub-tropical locations are a concern for fisheries managers, given the importance of reef fisheries to the economies of this region.  For more information, contact

Mystery Shipwreck Indentified
Collaborative efforts between NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries West Coast Region, U.S. Bureau of Lands Management, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Coos Historical and Maritime Museum led to last week's announcement of the identification of a mystery shipwreck in Coos Bay, Oregon.  Recent winter storms producing coastal sand erosion exposed the historic remains of the steam schooner George L. Olson.  The Maritime Heritage Coordinator for the west coast region conducted research and located extensive documentation and historic photographs that positively identified the shipwreck.  Research, including photographs dating back to 1917, was shared with federal and state agencies and local museums to provide pubic outreach resources for thousands of people who visited the shipwreck site.  For more information, contact

Coral Reef Task Force Meeting Celebrates 10-year Milestone
On Wednesday, NOAA co-chaired the 19th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meeting in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.  This year marks a decade of collaborative research, management, and conservation of coral reef ecosystems for the Task Force, and at this meeting, the USCRTF assessed its collective efforts and accomplishments, highlighted remaining needs and challenges, and began to develop a foundation for a renewed commitment to action for the next 10 years.  Dr. Nancy Knowlton, the Sant Marine Science Chair at the Smithsonian Institution, moderated the panel discussion, "Coral Reef Ecosystem Management – The Next Ten Years: Challenges, Key Priorities, and Innovative Solutions."  Dr. Knowlton also gave the keynote address and challenged the Task Force to focus on outcomes that have tangible and measurable impacts on coral reef health.  The meeting also highlighted the International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR 2008) with the unveiling of a "Year of the Reef" painting by Wyland, artist of IYOR 2008.  For a summary of the meetings, visit and for more information, contact



February 22, 2008

Habitat Planning Tool Generates Interest
Since its debut in September 2007, the Habitat Priority Planner, a NOAA Coastal Services Center tool, has been well received by organizations with regional and international audiences, including the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network. The Habitat Priority Planner is a geographic information system (GIS) tool that helps users prioritize areas for conservation and land-use planning. The most notable feature of the tool is its quick, interactive decision-making capability, which can be used by individuals without sophisticated GIS skills.  For more information, visit or contact

Invasive Species Research in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) initiated a partnership with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to conduct research on invasive species in the Monument.  Unlike the main Hawaiian Islands, the Monument has relatively few invasive species and managers would like to keep it that way.  NCCOS and Monument staff met in Oahu, HI, to share concepts, data, and methods to integrate ongoing invasive species work in Hawaii.  In collaboration with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, NCCOS and Monument staff are planning a field mission to collect preliminary data on alien species at French Frigate Shoals and Pearl and Hermes Atoll and to evaluate sampling technologies and predictive mapping capabilities.  This research will ultimately provide Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument managers with data to identify, prioritize, and implement management actions for invasive species.  For more information, contact

Managing Island Watersheds in Guam
As part of a project funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program to enhance the effectiveness of local management and planning for addressing land-based sources of pollution that threaten coral reefs ecosystems, a three-day workshop was recently held at the University of Guam.  The workshop, conducted by the Center for Watershed Protection in conjunction with the Guam Coastal Management Program, aimed to improve local understanding of watershed management, provide enhanced technical knowledge of erosion control, and provide innovative storm-water management and site-design practices.  A series of recommendations and a timeline were produced for addressing specific critical watershed issues in Guam, including incorporating storm-water measures and better site-design principles into existing regulations, updating erosion and sediment control (ESC) regulations, and improving ESC site inspections and compliance.  An action plan is being developed to address key recommendations and to implement select innovative practices at a demonstration site.  For more information, contact



February 15 , 2008

Shell Oil Partnership to Improve Forecasting, Resource Management
NOAA Administrator Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. and the president of Shell Oil Company met in Washington, D.C. this week to sign an agreement giving NOAA access to scientific information from Shell Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.  The partnership leverages NOAA’s scientific expertise with Shell’s offshore infrastructure and will, over the long term, foster the ongoing development of the Integrated Ocean Observing System.  It will advance the quantity, quality, and diversity of atmospheric and oceanographic information to meet shared interests in improving operational forecasts and understanding the Gulf of Mexico environment, particularly during tropical storm season.  NOAA will use the data to improve hurricane observations, forecasting, and resource management.  For more information, contact or

DNA Analysis May Assist in Crimes Violating Marine Resources
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) have identified evidence in two law enforcement cases as originating from several shark species.  One case, submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, involved processed, dried fins of smooth hammerhead, thresher, blue, silky, and shortfin mako sharks, which were imported into the U.S. in violation of U.S. and international laws.  The other case, submitted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, involved the taking of a basking shark, a prohibited species.  The case reports, based upon DNA analysis, will be used in litigation concerning violation of fishery and anti-smuggling laws.  Prosecution of wildlife crimes serves as an important deterrent to illegal use of marine resources.  For more information, contact

Translated NOAA Report May Help Guide Japanese Coastal Management
Following NOAA's participation at the Ocean Policy Forum in Korea in winter 2007, the Nippon Foundation of Japan has translated the NOAA-Coastal States Organization document, "Envisioning Our Coastal Future," into Japanese and will be distributing it to policy makers, managers, and the public as a key reference document as that nation develops new directions for coastal Japan.  In early 2007, the Japanese government adopted the Basic Ocean Law of Japan which is shaped in part on the recommendations and findings of the U.S. Ocean Commission.  For more information, contact or



February 8, 2008

“Fishing for Energy” Program Launched
On February 5, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Port of New Bedford launched the “Fishing for Energy” program in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to work with coastal communities to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear in our oceans.  In this new effort, Covanta Energy will work closely with the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission and the local fishing industry to coordinate the removal of derelict gear from local coastal waters.  Once removed, the gear, along with gear that is no longer fit for use, will be transported to Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facility in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Approximately one ton of derelict marine debris creates enough electricity to power one home for 25 days.  For more information, contact

Mussel Watch Data to Benefit Global Warming Research
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Mussel Watch Project has published the first country-wide analysis of parasites and pathologies in oysters and mussels to provide a baseline that can be used to judge range shifts due to global warming.  Findings are presented for 126 coastal areas of the United States.  Parasites and diseases in the aquatic environment are known to be moving north and the Mussel Watch Project has the only time series capable of identifying these movements.  Analysis of contaminant levels in the tissues of stationary shellfish such as mussels and oysters shows trends in water quality and the level of disease incidence around the country.  For more information, contact or

Narragansett Bay Eelgrass Report Released
The Narragansett Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserve, Save the Bay, and the University of Rhode Island's Environmental Data Center have issued a final report and atlas identifying the distribution and extent of eelgrass in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.  The report is the most comprehensive Bay-wide assessment since 1996 and provides vital data for statewide planning and restoration efforts.  Researchers in 2006 and 2007 conducted aerial and ground surveys to replicate and compare similar surveys from 1996.  They found substantial increases – more than four-fold – in eelgrass coverage in three areas where direct comparisons were possible.  Mapping the distribution and extent of eelgrass is a critical first step in understanding, managing, and protecting shallow-subtidal estuarine habitats.  For more information, contact


February 1, 2008

Modifying Agricultural Practices Could Reduce Flow of Nutrients to Gulf of Mexico
New findings suggest agricultural methods practiced since the 1950s have increased the carbon flux in the Mississippi River Basin by 40 percent and river discharge by nine percent.  The Mississippi River flows into the Northern Gulf of Mexico, where there is a large area of hypoxic bottom water known as the "Dead Zone," a recurrent feature in the Gulf during the summer.  Hypoxic (low oxygen) waters in the Gulf of Mexico can cause habitat loss, stress and even death to marine organisms, affecting commercial harvests and ecosystem health.  These new findings suggest that changing agricultural practices in the watershed could reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.  For more information, contact

Working to Ensure Consistent and Accurate Elevations
NOS representatives met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Vertical Control Project Delivery Team (PDT).  The PDT’s objective is to implement a nationwide datum and subsidence (land sinking) standard methodology for the Corps, as well as to develop policies, guidance, methods, and technologies to address subsidence.  The National Geodetic Survey, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, and the Office of Coast Survey are working with the Corps to ensure that Corps projects have vertical controls tied to the National Spatial Reference System and that elevations are consistent with Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Geological Survey map modernization efforts.  For more information, contact

World's Largest Juice Tanker Hits World’s Largest Dredge Barge
On January 24, 2008, the 669-foot orange juice tanker Orange Sun, which is the world’s largest bulk juice carrier, and the 200-foot dredge barge New York collided in Newark Bay, New Jersey.  A small volume of oil was spilled from the damaged barge, but there was a potential for a much more significant spill, given that the vessels had more than 15 times the volume of fuel onboard than was spilled in the recent Cosco Busan incident in San Francisco.  The NOAA Emergency Response Division (ERD) provided the U.S. Coast Guard with information on weather, tidal currents, and spill trajectories.  While there have been no reports of any loss of cargo, ERD also prepared a brief analysis of the fate of any spilled orange juice.  For more information, contact


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