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Sanctuary Shipwrecks Documented

Researchers using side scan sonar and high definition TV documented five historic shipwrecks in the northern reaches of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary during an expedition in mid-September. Staff from the sanctuary and the National Underseas Research Center at the University of Connecticut conducted the work in partnership with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration. Background papers and daily logs during the expedition are available on the Ocean Explorer Web site. Discovery's Science Channel also filmed the wrecks for a one-hour show to be shown early in 2004.

The group obtained the first detailed look at the steamer Portland, which sank in 1898 with a loss of all 192 passengers. This tragedy has become known as "New England's Titanic" and has great significance to the northeastern part of the country. The team also video-documented the remains of the schooner Louise B. Crary, which sank in collision with the Frank A. Palmer in December 1902. Although fishing nets entangle the ships, the team was able to film the port rail of the Crary from stern to the tip of the still-intact bowsprit. A mid-20th century fishing boat and the remains of a 19th century coal transport were also documented. For more information, contact Bruce Terrell.

Combination of Pesticides More Toxic

The results of a recent study sponsored by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science suggest that the pesticides atrazine and chlorothalonil, in combination, are more toxic to aquatic phytoplankton than each of the toxins separately. This indicates that aquatic phytoplankton populations may be affected by lower pesticide concentrations than previously thought. The detrimental effects on phytoplankton may impact nutrient cycling rates and food availability at higher levels in the food chain. These pesticides often are found in coastal waters. For more information, contact Marie DeLorenzo.

Water Level Stations for Carolinas

NOS’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) is collaborating with the Carolinas Coastal Ocean Observing and Prediction System on installation and operation of three water level gauges along the coast of North and South Carolina. Their goal is to monitor and model estuarine and coastal ocean conditions in the Carolinas, enhance real-time forecasts to mitigate natural hazards, support living resource and marine ecosystem management, make marine operations more safe and efficient, and support national security in the region. CO-OPS provided technical expertise for installing the gauges and tested the equipment prior to deployment. Three stations were installed in August 2003, in time for the arrival of Hurricane Isabel, and a fourth water level station is scheduled for installation in 2004. For more information, contact Tom Landon.


September 19, 2003

Scientists Find Evidence in Georges Bank Whale Deaths

Whale deaths on Georges Bank in June may be linked to domoic acid and saxitoxin poisoning, according to researchers from NOS's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research. This is the first time that domoic acid has been associated with marine mammal mortality in the Georges Bank area. Domoic acid is a neurotoxin that can cause seizures and permanent brain damage in the affected animal, and is produced by some species of marine algae from the genus Pseudo-nitzschia. Saxitoxin, produced by marine algae of the genus Alexandrium, is also suspected in previous whale deaths in the area in 1988. These findings indicate that the impact of harmful algal blooms may be greater than is previously thought. For more information, contact Fran VanDolah.

Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletins Issued to Gulf States

National Ocean Service scientists released and distributed three harmful algal bloom bulletins to Florida and Texas. Florida was advised of red tides off Cedar Key and southwest Florida, and Texas was advised on areas of potentially discolored water and the development of a new Loop Current eddy in the western Gulf of Mexico. The eddy, which has been developing over several months, can carry material from the eastern Gulf region to the western Gulf region. The bulletins provide information on the likely location and transport of the harmful algal blooms. For more information, contact Richard Stumpf.

Nutrient Loading in World's Largest Rivers Complicate Management

Human-induced nutrient loading in the world's largest rivers is altering nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate ratios according to a study funded by the National Ocean Service. In regions where high levels of nitrogen are introduced by human activities, phytoplankton growth, originally limited by nitrogen levels in many of these systems, is now frequently limited by phosphorus or silicate levels. These changes in nutrient levels and ratios may greatly impact the growth and composition of aquatic food webs, increase the frequency of harmful or noxious algal blooms, and complicate nutrient management approaches that focus solely on nitrogen levels. In addition, the researchers found that the effect of anthropogenic nutrient loading on rivers may exceed the influences of a watershed's soil type, climate and geography. The study is being conducted by researchers from Louisiana State University and Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. For more information, contact Kenric Osgood.

September 12, 2003

Test Enables More Accurate Monitoring of Pfiesteria-like Organisms

The dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida, one cause of harmful algal blooms, and five associated Pfiesteria-like organisms can now be distinguished from each other using “PCR” assays, according to researchers from the NOS Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the Florida Marine Research Institute, who developed the new tool. The ability to distinguish among these organisms will allow for more accurate monitoring, better estimates of exposure, and improved risk assessments. The reseachers’ work was recently featured in the Journal of Phycology. For more information, contact Wayne Litaker.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System Designates New Reserve

The San Francisco National Estuarine Research Reserve was recently designated as part of National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The reserve's lead state agency, San Francisco State University’s Romberg Tiburon Center, will host a designation ceremony on October 10, 2003. For more information, contact Nina Garfield.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System Launches New Web Site

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has launched its new Web site. The site will be expanded during the coming months. For more information, contact Theresa Eisenman.

September 5, 2003

Swordfish Spawning Grounds Identified in Western North Atlantic

The Charleston Bump and the northern reaches of the southeastern Atlantic Bight off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard are likely spawning and nursery areas for the highly prized migratory swordfish (Xiphias gladius), according to researchers at NOS’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research. These new findings support the notion that the area may be a good place to establish a marine protected area (MPA). Commercial swordfishing is already prohibited from Cape Canaveral to Cape Hatteras, largely because too many juvenile swordfish were being caught there. The researchers also documented growth and survival rates of young swordfish. They presented their findings at the Larval Fish Conference of the American Fisheries Society, held in late August in Santa Cruz, CA. For more information, contact Jeff Govoni.

NOS and Ohio State University Collaborate on Recreational Angling Study

NOS’s Office of Response and Restoration and Ohio State University are collaborating on an innovative study to improve valuations of recreational angling. The study will assist researchers in the use of Random Utility Models, a technique often applied to natural resource management decisions and natural resource damage assessments. Using a survey that will be submitted to participants in several stages over a period of two years, the study will observe the extent to which anglers respond to changes in the characteristics of recreational sites. In addition to determining the value of recreational fishing in Ohio, the study will improve current estimates of the opportunity cost of time, a key factor used in the monetary analysis of recreation in coastal areas. For more information, contact Eric English.

Damages and Restoration Settled for Westchester Oil Spill

In early September, NOS’s Office of Response and Restoration, working with federal and state co-trustees, will settle the natural resource damages portion of the Westchester oil spill. In November 2000, the tanker Westchester released 500,000 gallons of crude oil in Louisiana, injuring birds, fish, and critical habitat, and affecting fishing and hunting. A press release announcing the restoration projects will be distributed on September 10. NOS staff worked cooperatively with the responsible parties and co-trustees to complete this settlement, involving one of the largest oil spills (by gallons) in the lower 48 states, in less than three years. For more information, contact Lisa Pelstring.

Article on Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

An article entitled "Flower Garden Banks: Exploring the Gulf of Mexico's Crown Jewel" appears in the Fall 2003 issue of Riverwatch, the Tennessee Aquarium’s quarterly members’ magazine. The article features images of Stetson Bank and highlighted the sanctuary, which is the inspiration for the central tank of the Tennessee Aquarium's $30 million expansion, scheduled to open in May 2005. Aquarium staff members, volunteers and members visited the sanctuary in July for a three-day dive trip. Sanctuary staff and volunteers supplied the images in the article. For a copy, contact Sarah Bernhardt.

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