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Making Waves: Episode 44 (February 3, 2010)


... NOAA provides support to recovery efforts in Haiti
... clean-up is underway for an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
...and The public comment period is open on the second round of existing Marine Protected Areas nominated to join the national system.

It’s February 3rd, 2010. Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Haiti Support)

Last week, two NOAA aircraft fitted with high-resolution digital cameras flew missions over Haiti to collect photographs to help with recovery efforts.
All together, the team collected nearly 3,300 images covering more than 690 miles. These images are being used for many purposes by agencies ranging from the U.S. Agency for International Development, to the UN, to the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the uses of the photos is to help map out transportation routes for first responders. They’re also being used to locate areas where major demolition projects may be necessary for long-term recovery and rebuilding. Added to this, the photos will help to preserve a high-resolution record of the initial post-disaster state of the Port-au-Prince area.

The aircraft are part of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and are equipped with high-resolution digital cameras and other sensors that specialize in collecting data to help with disaster response, scientific research, and environmental resource management efforts. That equipment is maintained and operated by the National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division.

NOAA often rovides this type of support following events like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis in the U.S.

In international events, NOAA works closely with the Department of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Interior, and other agencies to provide coordinated remote sensing response capabilities.

This imagery is available to responders in Haiti and to the general public through Google Earth, on the Web, and via the latest geographic information system software.
You can get more on this story on our Web site at

All of us here at NOAA offer our deepest condolences for the people of Haiti.

(Port Arthur, TX, oil spill)

Further North in the Gulf of Mexico, members of the Office of Response and Restoration are now on-scene near Port Arthur, Texas, to help respond to an oil spill that occurred on January 23.

That morning, the towing vessel Dixie Vengeance and the two barges it was pushing collided with the tank ship Eagle Otome. That ripped a 15-by-8-foot hole in the tanker’s starboard cargo tank, leading to a spill of some 10,000 barrels of crude oil into the Sabine-Neches Waterway. That waterway, if you’re not familiar with the area, runs along the border between Texas and Louisiana from Beaumont, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Eagle Otome is a double-hulled tank ship owned by a Malaysian global shipping company. It was carrying 570,000 barrels of crude oil to the Exxon Mobil refinery in Beaumont at the time of the incident.

When the U.S. Coast Guard is the Federal On-Scene Coordinator at the site of an oil spill or other HAZMAT incident, the Office of Response and Restoration provides scientific support that includes predicting where the oil is going and what its effects may be, identifying resources at risk, providing weather forecasts, planning for shoreline cleanup, and participating in over flights to collect data and video footage.

NOAA will also coordinate with other state and federal trustees to assess injuries to natural resources and lost human uses. The trustees’ activities lay the foundation for restoration plans, and ultimately help the federal government determine whether the parties responsible for the spill should be required to pay damages toward restoring the injured resource.

The heavily traveled waterway is a vital link in the nation’s oil refining chain, representing approximately 6.5 percent of the nation’s gasoline refining capacity; thus, reopening the route and restoring commerce are top priorities.

(Second Round of MPA Nominations Almost Complete)

Finally today, we’re going to talk about the National System of Marine Protected Areas.

The effort to create this national system began back in 2000 with a Presidential Order.

At the beginning of this effort, we had marine sanctuaries, estuarine reserves, monuments, no-fishing zones, and state and national parks that include ocean resources all managed by different agencies. Some were created by the federal government, some by states, some by local and tribal governments ...and each protected area had separate requirements and different levels of protection.

So the goal of the national system is to tie all of these areas together to work towards common conservation goals. The effort is being led by NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center on behalf of the Departments of Commerce and Interior.

We’ve come a long way since 2000. Here’s a recap of where we are now. In 2008, the Center reached a major milestone after years of work by releasing a new national framework that sets goals and guidance for the new system -- and this sets the stage for how these protected areas are going to work together to conserve the nation's important natural and cultural marine resources.

The first group of 225 sites around the country were brought into the national system in the Fall of 2008. Now this happened after several key steps: first the managing agencies for these existing protected areas that wanted to be included in the national system nominated their sites. Then, the public had an opportunity to comment, and finally, after this phase, the managing agencies for these protected areas made the final decision to join the new national system.

Well, now we’re nearing the end of the second round of nominations for existing sites around the country.

For this round, there are 32 new sites nominated to join the system, and this is where you come in. Those sites are now up for public review through February 22nd. So surf over to to take a look at the nomination package.

Once this public review period is over, this second group will be formally accepted into the national system.

While the new system doesn't put new laws and regulations in place, what it does is set the stage so all of the players who manage these areas can come together to better conserve our marine resources.

The reason we need this is because our oceans are under threat from things like offshore development, overfishing, and climate change.

We're facing declining fish populations, loss of coral reefs and other vital habitats … and a growing list of rare or endangered species need our protection. We also risk losing important cultural artifacts and resources that are part of our heritage -- and an important part of our economy.

So the national marine protected area system is a big step forward in making sure that we protect our ocean heritage.

Again, the place to go to get more information and to review the second round of nominated sites is


That’s the news for this episode, but before we go, I want to mention that we have some new pages on the NOS Web site.

Did you know that, per unit area, coral reefs support more species than any other place in the ocean?

Want to learn how the Fishing for Energy program is turning old derelict nets into electricity?

Did you know that a National Ocean Service program helps aircraft know where the ground is when approaching airport runways?

These are just a few of the things you can learn about coral reefs, marine debris, and a program called height modernization. You’ll find these topics from the ‘Explore’ link on our home page. These first three pages are just the beginning. We’ll be rolling out newly designed topic pages throughout the year, so we hope you give it a look and let us know what you think.

Our Web address is

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.