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Weekly News: January 2003

January 31, 2003
January 24, 2003

January 31, 2003

Hawaii’s Economy Adversely Affected by Invasive Algal Species

Maui County, Hawaii, spends an estimated $20 million a year to cope with the pervasive problem of alien and invasive algae species, according to recent economic valuation studies conducted by NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS). The state must clean up rotting algae on beaches and compensate for decreased property values and more vacancies in rental properties in infested areas. The alien algae species also are a major problem in Waikiki and Kaneohe Bay, where they are outcompeting native species, and growing on reefs and suffocating corals.

The economic studies have been a major priority of the Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative Research Program, which is sponsored by NOS’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). The program surveyed the state to map the distribution of five alien algal species threatening Hawaii’s reefs. During 2003, researchers will study how to control these species and will present recommendations to resource managers. For more information, contact NOS’s Mike Dowgiallo.

Sonar Testing for Gray Whales in California National Marine Sanctuaries Halted

A federal judge issued a permanent injunction January 24 on a proposed research project that would have used sonar to detect the presence of migrating Gray Whales along the coast of California. The whales migrate down from Alaska and through all five west coast national marine sanctuaries (Olympic Coast, Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands) on their way to Mexican waters.

A coalition of environmental organizations had sued to stop Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist Peter Tyack from proceeding with a five-year effort to determine if Gray Whales were sensitive to various sonar frequencies. The coalition sued to have the scientist’s permit, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, revoked on the grounds that the agency failed to perform an adequate environmental analysis on the proposed project.

Federal Judge Samuel Conti of San Francisco agreed with the plaintiffs and found that the agency did not adequately address the public controversy surrounding the issue. Although Tyack is prohibited from going forward with the sonar testing, an initial permit exists that allows sonar testing at various levels on other marine mammals. For more information, contact Mary Jane Schramm at the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary as (415) 561-6622.

NOS To Unveil Port of New York/New Jersey Operational Forecast System To Improve Navigation

NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) will implement the Port of New York and New Jersey Operational Forecast System (NYOFS) on February 10, 2003. This system will provide mariners, port managers and spill response teams with present conditions (nowcasts) and future conditions (forecasts) of water levels and currents in the New York/New Jersey harbor. Four times a day, nowcasts and forecasts of water levels and currents will be provided for many locations throughout the harbor and transmitted via the Internet. NYOFS is made possible by the combination of real-time water level and wind observations from NOS’s Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®), tidal information and National Weather Service numerical models. Information collected from NYOFS will allow U.S. port authorities and shippers to make better and safer decisions regarding ship size and weight, and will increase the efficiency of vessel transit passage times. (For more information, contact Mark Vincent of NOS’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services at 301-713-2890 x151.

January 24, 2003

NOS Improves Navigation Safety on the Great Lakes

NOAA’s National Ocean Service recently improved the quality of navigation information on the Great Lakes by combining Global Positioning System data with a newly established continuous operating reference system at a water-level station. The new station, which is on Lake Huron at Harbor Beach, Mich., is equipped with several meteorological sensors and a water-temperature sensor, courtesy of NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, The technology, when combined with the network of similarly-equipped stations, relates water level changes to the vertical motion of the Earth’s crust throughout the Great Lakes Region. The technology also will improve NOAA's ability to forecast atmospheric and lake conditions. For more information, contact Richard Snay of NOS’s National Geodetic Survey.

Farallones Sanctuary Volunteers Work to Save Oiled Birds

A chronic oil leak from a sunken ship off the coast of San Francisco has prompted beach watch volunteers to step up their efforts to rescue oiled birds along the shores of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The area has been experiencing “mystery spills” for at least a decade and so far has found 530 oiled birds, half of which are being rehabilitated. Research suggests, however, that between 2,650 and 5,300 birds may have been impacted by the oil. The California Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the International Bird Rescue Research Center are conducting special surveys to find additional oiled wildlife. Scientists believe the oil is coming from the shipwreck S/S Jacob Luckenbach, which lies 17 miles west/southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge. More than 85,000 gallons of oil were removed from the wreck during the summer and fall of 2002 in a multi-agency effort of which the NOAA’ sanctuary program was a partner. The U.S. Coast Guard has since re-opened the oil spill liability trust fund for this case. For more information, please contact Ed Ueber at (415) 561-6622.

NOS Spearheads Cooperative Framework for Assessing Natural Resource Damage

NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) recently developed a framework for conducting cooperative natural resource damage assessments. This framework will help determine how sites affected by chronic hazardous substances or oil contamination will be assessed when the parties responsible for the harm and the government work cooperatively. The framework, which has been in the works for two years, is the product of the Cooperative Assessment Project, a broad-based stakeholder group consisting of industry, environmental, and natural resource trustee representatives. For more information please contact Eli Reinharz at 301-713-3038 x193 or visit the Cooperative Assessment Project Web site.

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