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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

NOAA Funding Bill Gets Poor Grades When It Comes to Supporting a Healthy Ocean

Posted On July 16, 2013 by

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Last week, I wrote about what to look for in the about-to-be released bills for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including three questions to ask to determine whether the bill will support a healthy ocean. Now the House of Representatives has released its funding bill for NOAA.

As a former high school math and physics teacher, I thought grades were in order.

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Three Questions to Ask About NOAA’s Funding

Posted On July 9, 2013 by

This week in Congress, the House of Representatives will put forth a bill to fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 2014 fiscal year. We saw earlier this year that President Obama’s 2014 budget for NOAA would provide a bright future for our ocean, but the funding bill in the House paints a much grimmer picture.

How will you know whether the bill will support a healthy ocean? Here are three questions to ask:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?

Despite being one of the most important agencies to our ocean, NOAA has faced significant funding cuts in recent years, and it is likely that the House will attempt to steeply cut NOAA’s budget again this year. With the sequestration, NOAA’s budget is already hovering at 13 percent below the current request for $5.4 billion. This bill could demand even lower numbers.

NOAA’s mission of protecting, restoring and managing our ocean and coasts is vitally important to our ocean and coastal economies, which contribute more than $258 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product and support 2.7 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. Cutting resources will cost us—now and in the future.

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Video: America’s Ocean Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

Posted On May 24, 2013 by

This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant.

In Rhode Island and beyond, coastal communities are working on plans to manage the ocean’s resources in ways that generate new industries, support job creation, and provide food and services to an ever-increasing population.

This film is the first in a series that explores this effort with ocean practitioners from around the world and provides an overview of economic issues related to ocean planning. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share the remaining three films in the series, which focus on offshore renewable energy, fisheries and the environment.

The film series is supported by several funders and partners, including The URI Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Marine Affairs Research and Education (MARE), the team behind OpenChannels.org. Media firm Zygote Digital Films Inc. developed the series.

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More Reasons a National Ocean Policy is a Big Deal

Posted On April 25, 2013 by

The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views:

I recently joined Ocean Conservancy as its new CEO because I believe in one simple but very ambitious premise: the ocean must be at the very center of the key challenge of our time.

That challenge is how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate, and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.

This is why approaches that look at the big picture, like the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy plan released last week, are exactly what we need to rise to this challenge.

Read more at National Geographic’s Ocean Views:

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Why the National Ocean Policy Matters

Posted On April 17, 2013 by

Credit: DigitalVision

Superstorm Sandy’s coastal destruction, the Japan Tsunami’s drifting debris, BP Deepwater Horizon’s gusher of oil in the Gulf and the declaration of fisheries disasters in New England, Mississippi and Alaska have taught us that these calamities affect not only the health of our ocean and coasts, but also the well-being of our communities and our economy.  We also know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again.

Investing in our ocean’s health will help not only respond to future disasters, but also better withstand their impacts. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the U.S. are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.  The levels the president put forward in his budget, including an increase to NOAA’s funding, are a step in the right direction

With the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan just this week, all levels of government, tribes and ocean-users can benefit from the increased guidance and coordination.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Regions can decide what they want – or don’t want – and what works best for them. Ultimately, a healthy and well-managed ocean and coast benefits everyone – industry, beachgoers, fishermen, divers and whale watchers alike.

Here’s why others say the National Ocean Policy matters to them:

Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, LLC:

“Our business requires coordination on the local, state and federal level and listening to the views of affected ocean users. By engaging ocean users, and by providing data and information, the smart ocean planning described in the National Ocean Policy provides greater predictability, consistency and efficiency – in short, less time, lower risk and lower costs. For emerging industries like offshore renewable energy, it’s vital to know where things like critical fish habitat, shipping lanes and recreation hot spots are in order to avoid them.”

Edward Anthes-Washburn, Deputy Port Director, Port of New Bedford:

“Ocean planning is critical to the Port of New Bedford’s past, present and future.  The Port of New Bedford is the #1 valued fishing port in the United States, the premier staging site for offshore wind deployments on the East Coast, and a bustling commercial and recreational port.  We rely on strong and thoughtful strategic planning to balance those uses here in the port.  By the same token, comprehensive regional ocean planning is vital for all of our industries to thrive – without it, we risk conflict and chaos between uses.  More than providing a clearinghouse for information needed and collected by ocean users, ocean planning provides a forum and produces development options that make sense for all stakeholders.”

Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA:

“The more we know about the ocean, the better we’ll be able to protect and utilize its resources sustainably and reliably.  The National Ocean Policy helps ensure this happens.  The continued development and application of crowdsourcing ocean data and other ‘citizen science’ initiatives promotes efficiency and collaboration while strengthening our nation’s marine spatial planning infrastructure.  The engagement of the public accomplishes collection of data and outreach to users and contributors outside of the professions normally involved in sea surveying.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind:

“For those of us with businesses and livelihoods that rely on the ocean, the benefits of the National Ocean Policy are clear. The demand for ocean resources is growing by the day. Renewable energy, commercial and recreational fisheries and maritime industries, among others, are all interested in the same waters. Many times these areas intersect, and conflict between uses could result without sensible planning.  The release of the Implementation Plan moves us one step closer to creating smart plans to guide us toward sustainable ocean development.”

Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs for the Ocean Renewable Power Company:

“As New England regional planning begins and methods to involve stakeholders are investigated, our project serves as a positive example of collaboration between existing marine users and new industry. In essence, we have implemented many of the principles of smart ocean planning and have shown its success. By forging an early path of engagement and through continued diligence, new ocean users can contribute to increased sustainability and vitality of coastal communities.”

John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

“As part of the community’s efforts to develop and apply innovative technologies to the understanding of the world’s oceans, we are very encouraged by the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan’s goal of efficiently targeting Federal resources and delivering demonstrable results.  Crowdsourced bathymetry –  or water depth and the sea floor information – is one such technology that can contribute to this goal and further serve all of the Plan’s guiding themes.  As our company continues to develop this crowdsourcing technology, we will rely on the National Ocean Policy to help further our goals by sharing and coordinating with fellow ocean users.”

Captain John McMurray, president, One More Cast Charters, writing in The Hill:

“Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist.”

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A “To Do” List for the Ocean

Posted On April 16, 2013 by

Photo by Mattox. Creative Commons

Great news for anyone who thinks having a healthy ocean is a good idea.  The President’s National Ocean Policy Final Implementation Plan was released today.  It may not have the catchiest title, but since it’s essentially a “To Do” list for a healthy ocean and economy, it’s something worth getting excited about.

This “To Do” list includes over 50 action items related to making smarter use of the ocean and Great Lakes, both for conservation and the economy.  There are tasks related to protecting the Arctic, tackling climate change and ocean acidification, improving water quality and overall finding ways to better coordinate and manage ocean uses through data collection and monitoring, mapping and improved agency coordination.

Like most to-do lists, there are a lot of routine tasks, such as monitoring of temperature. There are also some ambitious feats on there. It provides the underpinning to cope with unpreventable and unpredictable events, like hurricanes and tsunamis, increased marine debris or rising sea levels.  This plan tackles many of those issues, and much more.

The National Ocean Policy is about making smart choices for a healthier ocean – which, in turn, saves money, time and jobs. The Implementation Plan shows that the policy is a realistic plan that recognizes the tough fiscal climate we’re in.  That’s why it emphasizes that these priorities can help direct the limited resources to where they’re most needed.

We’ve written before about the National Ocean Policy and what has happened so far.

Unfortunately we can expect some of the same critics to cry foul about this based on politics rather than the content of the plan.  Slowing down or blocking the National Ocean Policy could devastate services that many businesses and communities rely on. Congressman Markey once said that opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.

Our new CEO, Andreas Merkl, recently said,

“The ocean is at the very center of the key challenges of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage our impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.”

Approaches that look at the big picture, like the National Ocean Policy, are exactly what we need to rise to this challenge.

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Crowdsourcing the Ocean Floor: How Mariners Can Gather Valuable Information for Better Decision-Making

Posted On February 21, 2013 by

Sea Tow vessels in Coastal New Jersey (left) and expeditionary cruise ships in Antarctica (right) provide insights where survey data or official charts do not exist.

This is a guest post from Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA and John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

How is one sailboat captain helping improve maritime safety for all cargo ships and commercial fishermen?

By providing data to develop more detailed up-to-date, even up-to-the-minute, nautical charts.

As our demands for the use of the ocean increase, including for marine transportation, you might be surprised to learn that the most basic information for any mariner — bathymetry (or information about water depth and the sea floor) — is incomplete and outdated in many areas.

If a large metal object fell from a truck onto a road, we would notice it immediately. Yet if this occurred in a waterway, it might not be apparent until the object was struck by a ship, as happened in 2004 when a submerged anchor, not indicated on any charts, punctured the hull of the tanker Athos I and caused an oil spill in the Delaware River.

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