Weekly News: May 2006
Over the last nine days, the Office of Coast Survey located a total of 115 hazards to navigation along the coast of Mississippi. The objects were located while conducting hydrographic survey work using side scan sonar in Mississippi state waters, for the purpose of locating and mapping hazards and marine debris that may be a risk to commercial fishing and shrimping activities in the Gulf. NOAA has completed surveying approximately half of the first out of four project areas designated by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Hurricane impacts to the Mississippi coast have raised serious concerns about the number of hazards that may be offshore and that may pose a risk to fishing, boating, and commercial navigation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued a Mission Assignment to the Office of Coast Survey to expedite the survey effort of critical areas that have been identified by the State of Mississippi. This is an ongoing recovery effort and will build stronger links between federal and state agencies responsible for planning and repair to critical infrastructure following a devastating storm. For more information, contact Tim.Osborn@noaa.gov.
On May 19, during a signing ceremony held at the Bishop Museum's Hawai'i Maritime Center, a historic joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was formalized between the Hawai'i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOS, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The MOU identifies the roles and responsibilities of each partner agency and their commitment to carry out coordinated resource management in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The agreement establishes a Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Core Management Committee with oversight for the area. The MOU is another step toward providing comprehensive protection and conservation for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are being considered for designation as a national marine sanctuary program. For more information, contact Andy.Collins@noaa.gov.
On May 23-24, NOAA sponsored the Southern Louisiana Portfields Initiative kickoff in New Orleans, Louisiana. The kickoff brought together six ports from south Louisiana, along with federal, state, and local partners to identify partnership opportunities. Participating ports included the Port of New Orleans, South Louisiana, St. Bernard, Baton Rogue, Port Fourchon, and the Jefferson Parish Port District. A major component of the agenda was a "peer to peer exchange" with port representatives from New Bedford, Massachusetts; Tampa, Florida; and Bellingham, Washington. In addition, the ports discussed priority issues and partnership opportunities with a number of federal, state, and local partners. Federal partners on the Portfields Initiative include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Economic Development Administration, and others. State partners include the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Local partners include the Regional Planning Commission of New Orleans and the City of New Orleans. Representatives from NOS and National Marine Fisheries Services attended the event. For more information, contact Kenneth.Walker@noaa.gov.
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science scientists confirmed the presence of domoic acid, a toxin produced by the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia spp., in fecal samples from two species of stranded dolphins in southern California. Identification of the algal toxin in these animals enhances the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Species' understanding of the extent of marine mammal species affected by harmful algal blooms off the California coast. Since 1998, domoic acid has fatally intoxicated hundreds of California sea lions on an annual basis. This year, in addition to California sea lions, approximately twenty dolphins have stranded in southern California. For more information, contact Tod.Leighfield@noaa.gov.
On May 10th, a major equipment deployment drill occurred in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, approximately 10 miles off Cape Flattery, Washington. The drill, called "CANUSPAC 2006" (short for "Canadian-U.S. Pacific Area Committee"), was held to practice coordination of spill response capabilities of U.S. and Canadian agencies. Drills such as this one are held every two years near the international boundary. U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards worked with two spill response companies with regional assets, the Marine Spill Response Corporation and the National Response Corporation, to evaluate communications, logistics, transferred security issues, and equipment deployment coordination. Each of the four organizations deployed boom and skimmers in open water conditions for the drill. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary resource protection staff observed the drills, to improve sanctuary staff understanding of the equipment requirements and challenges associated with oil spill response in open water conditions. For more information, contact Liam.Antrim@noaa.gov.
At the semiannual conference of governors and premiers held recently in Newport, Rhode Island, Canada and the U.S. signed an oceans resolution to assist the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) in addressing issues such as research and development, education, exploration, disease control, data sharing, technology development, and coordinated funding strategies. Supporting federal agencies, led by NOAA and the U.S. Department of the Interior, met to begin coordinating their assistance to NROC. The state-led NROC was signed into existence in August 2005 and is now discussing priorities and governance options. At the recent conference, NOAA Administrator VADM Conrad C. Lautenbacher offered lessons learned from similar regional efforts in the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes, and recognized that this Council will focus on issues of regional importance, building on efforts of successful regional entities such as the Gulf of Maine Council. For more information, contact Betsy.Nicholson@noaa.gov.
The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) annual field survey to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (California) recently took place to collect data that assists in determining the status and trends of marine life and habitats within the Sanctuary. This was the fifth year for the project. Seventy-five marine life surveys were conducted at nine locations, and 46 species of fish were reported, including rarities such as the masked prickleback, the redtail surfperch, and the rosy rockfish. REEF led the project, which included identification, training seminars, daily survey dives in the Sanctuary. Several Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN) staff participated in the survey, as did volunteers from around the country. Data collected during the project will be added to REEF's publicly accessible database, which includes over 93,000 surveys conducted by volunteers at sites around the western hemisphere, including 12 national marine sanctuary sites. To date, approximately 1,800 REEF surveys have been conducted by volunteers in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary. REEF's newest citizen science program, the California Invertebrate and Algae Monitoring Project, debuted during the field survey. This project, which will serve as a companion to the existing fish monitoring program, was developed in concert with staff from Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Channel Islands National Park. For more information, contact Steve.Gittings@noaa.gov.
NOAA's Coastal Services Center teamed up with storm surge experts from the NOAA Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center to develop two scenarios that illustrate what would happen if Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma made landfall in greater Miami, Florida, in the same manner they struck Louisiana and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The scenarios were developed for a Miami Herald article about the potential hurricane catastrophe that looms over South Florida. To view the article and simulations of the scenarios, visit http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/14518105.htm. For more information, contact Ethan.Gibney@noaa.gov.
From May 9 to 18, NOS will lead a team to provide technical advice to China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement a newly launched, eight-year project to enhance coastal resource and biodiversity management at four coastal sites in China's South Sea. Under a NOAA - SOA agreement on integrated coastal management, NOAA was a key partner in the UNDP project bid and is a technical advisor on the project steering committee. NOS is partnering with two U.S. companies (ESRI and YSI) and The Nature Conservancy on the project. Two of the Chinese sites are sister sites with NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Florida. For further information, contact Jonathan.Justi@noaa.gov or Anne.Walton@noaa.gov.
During the first week in May, nearshore moorings with instrumentation for monitoring water quality and water currents were deployed in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. These instruments will continuously monitor oxygen concentrations near the seafloor, to detect low oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions believed to seasonally affect Dungeness crab populations. Other instrumentation provides data to detect upwelling of nutrient-rich waters from depth, plankton concentrations that may carry biotoxins, and water circulation patterns in waters out to 100 meters depth. The monitoring will continue at selected locations in the sanctuary through September 2006. As part of the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom and Ecology of Harmful Algal Bloom Pacific Northwest partnerships, the data will be used to study how and when harmful algal blooms are generated and moved onshore, affecting human consumption of shellfish and toxin accumulations in marine wildlife. As part of the West coast observing system and Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, these data also provide a snapshot of oceanographic conditions affecting the health and abundance of marine resources in all five West coast sanctuaries. For more information, contact Ed.Bowlby@noaa.gov.
Representatives of seafood regulatory agencies in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa completed training this past week in the use of methods developed by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. These methods allow the testing of seafood products for algal toxins without using live animals. The increasing global opposition to seafood testing using live animals has led the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide several African countries with training in alternative testing methods. The IAEA anticipates training seafood regulators from up to ten additional countries over the next several years. Careful testing of fishery products helps protect the health of seafood consumers and support local economies through domestic and export seafood markets. For more information, contact Greg.Doucette@noaa.gov.
NOAA Office of Coast Survey (OCS) personnel participated in a Houston/Galveston Port Coordination Team meeting, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and industry representatives. During the meeting, participants viewed a hurricane simulation imitating a hurricane hitting the Houston/Galveston area and ran through the high-level coordination that would be carried out in such an event. OCS will also be conducting a field and operational preparedness trip through the Gulf Region at the end of May. For more information, contact Howard.Danley@noaa.gov.
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