Ocean Currents » noaa http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:30:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Our Ocean Remains a Presidential Priority http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:41:11 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11450

Strong funding proposed for ocean conservation in President Obama’s final budget proposal.

Today, President Obama laid out his final “to-do list” in the form of his proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year. Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see this administration continue to prioritize the ocean, not least because it contributes more than $343 billion annually to the nation’s GDP and supports 2.9 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

You’d be right in thinking President Obama’s proposed budget is a big deal for our ocean.

Of course it’s not a done deal but we should still take a moment to celebrate that our ocean remains a significant priority as we work together to tackle huge challenges like climate change through science-based solutions and effective policies.

The president has proposed $5.8 billion in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our nation’s premier ocean agency. This would include $1 billion for the National Marine Fisheries Service and $570 million for the National Ocean Service – two key parts of NOAA that protect, restore, and manage our ocean and coasts. NOAA’s mission is to make sure that we have a healthy ocean that can support the economy and the communities that depend on it.

Ocean Conservancy is encouraged to note these three recommendations made today:

  1. A $12 million increase for investments in finding solutions to the challenge of ocean acidification. NOAA’s ocean acidification program coordinates research, maintains a water quality monitoring program to track acidification, develops strategies and techniques for business and communities to adapt, and provides critical research grants to improve understanding of ocean acidification’s environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
  2. An initial investment of $10 million for the first-ever federal ocean trust fund. The National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund was created by Congress late last year in a major victory for ocean champions on Capitol Hill, who have pushed for such a fund since it was first recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004. This initial investment will allow the new fund to begin its important work, providing grants that improve our understanding of the ocean and support sustainable ocean uses.
  3. A four-fold increase in grants to support ocean resilience in regions across the country. Building resilience is critical for communities and economies that are facing major changes in the ocean, from climate change to emerging ocean industries like offshore wind. Resilience can only be achieved at the regional level, with communities, states, and federal agencies working together to share their collective knowledge and experience and establish a unified direction. NOAA’s innovative grant program supports this approach.

What next?

There is a long way to go before the budget is finalized.  The President’s budget is just the first step in a multi-month process in Congress to arrive at a final budget for next year. In the coming months both the House and the Senate will respond to the President’s budget with proposals of their own.

I know that you will work with Ocean Conservancy to advocate for the best investments to ensure our ocean, and the people that most depend on it, continue to thrive.  You can help President Obama make this vision a reality for the ocean next year by reaching out to your Member of Congress to express your support for a healthy ocean.

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How Our Ocean Scored in the Omnibus Spending Bill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 20:20:08 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11243

This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.

Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today. 

How our ocean scored in the omnibus spending bill:

  • More funds to tackle ocean acidification – The budget for NOAA’s ocean acidification program increased from $8.5 million to $10 million dollars annually. This will help fund science to better understand how acidification will impact coastal communities across the U.S. Acidification is impacting coastal jobs and communities as increasingly acidic water dissolves the shells of animals, spelling trouble for oysters, clams and mussels as well as the people that grow them. Increased funding in a tough political environment is a testament to the hard work of all the stakeholders, including you, that weighed in with Congress on the critical importance of addressing this threat.
  • First-ever Ocean Trust Fund – This is something that the ocean conservation community has been working towards for well over a decade. It finally happened thanks to the work of some tenacious champions on Capitol Hill and your support over the years. The existence of this fund has the potential to help work on virtually all ocean issues ranging from protecting marine mammals to climate change resilience. We need to find money to fill the coffers but this is a moment to savor. We achieved something that has taken our community a very long time to get across the finish line.
  • Stronger National Ocean Policy – We are celebrating that all of the anti-National Ocean Policy riders were struck from the final budget deal. The NOP encompasses dozens of programs across the federal government and enables agencies that focus on the ocean to work together. It makes no sense to weaken a policy that helps the government do its work.
  • Marine Mammal Stranding Network – Remember our action alert highlighting this program? Well, the good news is that we know that it was funded in the final deal, despite a risk that it could have been cut.
  • Red snapper disaster averted The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “Scott amendment” that would have defunded and upended red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico was struck from the final budget deal. This is a major win, especially for the red snapper fishermen who worked tirelessly to defeat an amendment that would have been devastating for both fish and fishermen.

One area that raises concern is state boundary for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The omnibus spending bill did include some language changing the state maritime boundary for management of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This means big confusion and uncertainty for federally-permitted fishermen. And it means big challenges for those responsible for rebuilding this iconic fishery. The Ocean Conservancy team is already working on how to turn that loss around. Expect to see more on that in 2016.

All in all, we should be happy with the outcomes for our ocean. Of course our work is never done, but for this rather wonderful moment in time, please join me in celebrating what we have been able to achieve together.

What a great way to end the year – thank you!

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Nationwide, Fisheries Landings Continue to Break Records Thanks to Sound Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/nationwide-fisheries-landings-continue-to-break-records-thanks-to-sound-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/nationwide-fisheries-landings-continue-to-break-records-thanks-to-sound-management/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 08:00:35 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11085

A couple of weeks ago I went on a mackerel fishing trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 35-year commercial fishing veteran. It was a beautiful day and there was the slightest tinge of autumn out on the Gulf of Mexico, and we quickly caught the day’s order of Spanish and King mackerel. Heading back through John’s Pass I asked my friend, who also fishes for Gulf snapper and grouper, how business has been and without missing a beat he said “The last two years have been the best of my career.”

That commercial fishing captain’s booming business is a story reverberating in fisheries across the country, and is borne out in the 2014 Fisheries of the United States report issued by NOAA Fisheries this fall. The report, which is released annually, shows that U.S. fishermen landed 9.5 billion pounds of fish and shellfish with a dockside value of $5.4 billion, a volume that is higher than average for the past five years.

Recreational fisheries are seeing steady increases in landings as well. Here in the Gulf of Mexico the iconic red snapper fishery saw the highest allowable catch on record, at 14.3 million pounds of fish for 2015. Higher catch limits will ultimately result in more days on the water for recreational fishermen headed to the gulf to wet their lines from across the country as the stock continues to rebuild.

Out on the water, fishing is good because of good management practices put into place by federal regulators under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Simply put, the law works, and commercial and recreational fishermen are reaping benefits while stocks continue to rebuild end ecosystems continue to rebound.

NOAA administrator for fisheries Eileen Sobeck noted that “sustainable fisheries generate billions of dollars for our economy, help keep saltwater recreational fishing as one of our nation’s favorite past times, and help coastal communities remain economically resilient.” For my commercial fishing friend, keeping fisheries sustainable will keep his business prosperous, and thankfully there is good evidence for staying optimistic.

The 2014 Fisheries of the United States report can be found here.

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Unraveling Ocean Acidification’s Mysteries Along the Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/13/unraveling-ocean-acidifications-mysteries-along-the-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/13/unraveling-ocean-acidifications-mysteries-along-the-coast/#comments Tue, 13 Oct 2015 19:30:40 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10891

In the past, we’ve shared good news with you about ocean acidification research funds allocated by the Federal government. Ever wonder what sorts of research projects NOAA supports with this money? A few days ago, NOAA announced three new awards to universities totaling $1.3 million to study how ocean acidification is changing the coastal ocean. We already know that nearshore waters are becoming more acidic and losing oxygen. These three universities will be looking at the root causes, and trying to understand what that means for marine plants and animals, and the people that rely on them.

What’s new and particularly ambitious about these projects is that they will study ocean acidification in coastal environments, which are incredibly complex. Not only do coastal waters take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they also receive fertilizer, sewage, and toxic chemical pollution from coastal development, host vibrant ecosystems, and receive pulses of freshwater runoff after storms. The net effect is that coastal water chemistry is the product of these layered processes. None of the processes happens at the same time or in the same place, making it difficult to understand which processes drive which effects.

Each of these projects includes developing a computer model that will help researchers “connect the dots” in the coastal zone. These models will show how processes work together over time and space to yield current conditions. Researchers on the West Coast, led by University of California Los Angeles, will explore these layered processes for the California Current, which is home to some of the most abundant fisheries on the continent, including oysters, Dungeness crab, and market squid. Researchers based at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi will be doing this for Texas estuaries like the Nueces estuary, near Corpus Christi, which host a variety of marine life yet are surrounded by intense development on land. Texas fisheries facing ocean acidification include oysters, shrimp, and several fin fish that eat shelled marine creatures. Finally, researchers led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences will explore the effect of layered processes on the Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the country, to understand how this may affect ongoing oyster restoration efforts there.

In all the studies, researchers will be sharing their discoveries with natural resource managers. The conclusions will provide information on which real-life policies and strategies could best maintain (or improve) the health of these vital coastal zones. And the lessons learned will help other cities’ and states’ managers care for their coastal waters. There’s going to be a lot of bang for these bucks awarded by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and we can’t wait to learn what new insights the researchers find. Congratulations to all!

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Congress Wants More Attention on Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 00:57:41 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10286

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, MassMatt

Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.

Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.

No one wants to be caught unprepared for acidification as the Pacific Northwest was when it dealt with the oyster baby die-offs of 2005-2009 in its hatcheries.  Right now important fisheries such as the salmon, Dungeness crab and lobster fisheries in the northwest and northeast parts of the country are in that particular proverbial boat, as they have little to no science on the impacts of acidification.

Funding this research and science to support local decision-makers with information is also critical in fighting ocean acidification, and in fact, Congress is deciding how much to spend on acidification research and monitoring right now.  For context, last year, Congress funded the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) at $8.5 million for the year.  So far this year, it looks like this figure will hold steady thanks to Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), and Representatives Bonamici (OR-1st) and Heck (WA-10th) who led letters to their colleagues on the committees who make these funding decisions in support of the NOAA OAP budget which had a total of 64 members of Congress sign on in bipartisan support.

With these proposed assessments to inform communities from H.R. 2553, and the consistent support of federal funding, we hope our communities, coasts and marine industries can defend themselves from ocean acidification and continue thriving into the future.

 

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The Evidence Mounts: Another Study Links Dolphin Deaths in the Gulf to BP http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/21/the-evidence-mounts-another-study-links-dolphin-deaths-in-the-gulf-to-bp/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/21/the-evidence-mounts-another-study-links-dolphin-deaths-in-the-gulf-to-bp/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 12:30:38 +0000 Alexis Baldera http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10239

Yesterday, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published new results from a series of studies in which they have investigated the unusually high number of dolphin deaths occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Since 2010, scientists have conducted autopsies on dead dolphins to try and understand why they are dying.

They found significantly higher numbers of dolphins with severe lung disease and lesions on their adrenal glands in oiled areas than in non-oiled areas. Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson described the adrenal disease as forcing dolphins to precariously balance on a ledge which cold temperatures, pregnancy and infection can push them off, resulting in death. The lesions observed in dolphins were “some of the most severe lung lesions ever seen in wild dolphins throughout the U.S.” according to lead Pathologist, Dr. Katie Colegrove. NOAA is decisive in concluding that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused the dolphin deaths in the Northern Gulf: “The timing, location, and nature of the detected lesions support that contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint.”

These new findings are backed up by earlier studies. One publication reported dolphins in Barataria Bay had symptoms consistent with petroleum exposure that were threatening their survival. Another study analyzed where and when dolphins were stranding, and found areas contaminated with oil in 2010 and 2011 also had the highest numbers of dolphin deaths.

As researchers continue to publish the results of studies, we will further understand the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. We will also begin to understand if impacted animals and places are recovering. Bob Spies, former chief scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, recently said “If we care enough to understand impacts, I hope we care enough to understand recovery.” This reminds me that understanding the impacts is only the first step in restoring the Gulf. The people who live in the Gulf will rely on it throughout their lifetimes, and long-term research and environmental monitoring will provide us with the tools we need to continue to not only hold BP accountable, but also restore the Gulf.

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NOAA Says Shell Drilling Would Impact Thousands of Marine Mammals http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 19:28:33 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9986

Earlier this year, President Obama took executive action to protect some of the Arctic Ocean’s most significant marine areas from the threats posed by oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately, some areas of the Arctic Ocean were left open to oil companies, and oil giant Shell has been gearing up to make another attempt to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released an analysis that details how Shell’s proposed drilling operations may impact whales and seals. The results? Tens of thousands of of animals may be exposed to noise that could disrupt vital life activities like migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, and sheltering. NOAA’s analysis determined that more than 50,000 seals and more than 6,000 whales–including belugas, bowheads, grays, and humpbacks–could be affected by Shell’s proposed drilling activities.


Arctic whales and seals are already feeling the effects of climate change and the rapid loss of summer sea ice; the impacts associated with Shell’s proposed drilling activities would only add to their stress. Drilling activities also present the risk of a catastrophic oil spill, and extreme conditions like changing sea ice, fog, and high winds make meaningful cleanup all but impossible in the Arctic Ocean. A disaster like the Deepwater Horizon in the Chukchi Sea would devastate marine wildlife and jeopardize food security in Alaska Native communities.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will soon decide whether to approve Shell’s proposals to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer. Join us in taking a stand against reckless drilling: Tell the Secretary of the Interior to say “no” to Shell. Sign our petition, today.

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