Home | Contact ST  
Follow ST

Marine Resources


February 2014 Issue

Crown Estate Surveys Discover New Info on Reefs
Seven areas of Sabellaria spinulosa reef were discovered in the southern North Sea during the 2008 East Coast Regional Environmental Characterization (REC) surveys. These reefs extend from 7 to 50 square kilometers, and the reefs and surrounding sedimentary habitats were sampled extensively. These data, supplemented with fish gut contents data collected from the reefs, have been used to explore the ecosystem functions provided by this habitat.

The results of this ecosystem study, carried out for The Crown Estate by a team from Marine Ecological Surveys (MES), have provided new information about these biogenic reefs and also dispelled some of the prior misconceptions as to their ecological function. In particular, as a result of this study, it appears that Sabellaria spinulosa reefs are primarily areas of enhanced abundance of species that are otherwise found sporadically in sedimentary habitats; Sabellaria spinulosa reefs perform similar ecosystem functions, irrespective of their size (extent or height); several demersal fish species within Sabellaria spinulosa reefs exhibited different dietary compositions compared with fish sampled from other sedimentary habitats; and broadscale anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., fishing or aggregate extraction) in the vicinity of such reefs does not affect the health of the reefs or the faunal assemblages they support.

These results and the prior work, which showed that recovery after direct disturbance can occur rapidly, raise the question of whether the heightened conservation status of these reefs continues to be justified.

Changes in NOAA Nautical Charts, Publications
NOAA is making changes to nautical chart printing and distribution, and seeks public comment until February 3, 2014. The NOAA Nautical Inquiry & Comment System is available at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/inquiry, and more information is available at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

NOAA is privatizing the printing of nautical charts. After April 13, 2014, NOAA-certified Print-on-Demand (POD) charts will be the only official source available for mariners to obtain NOAA paper nautical charts. NOAA-certified POD charts are official paper nautical charts that are up-to-date at the time of printing.

NOAA is also making nautical chart information available digitally in three new ways, and is seeking feedback on these three changes. For a three-month trial period (October 22, 2013 to January 22, 2014), NOAA provided free digital chart image files in PDF format. The digital charts are also available as NOAA-certified Print-on-Demand charts. NOAA will evaluate the usage and user feedback to decide whether to continue providing public access to PDF nautical charts.

NOAA's Office of Coast Survey is providing high-resolution NOAA raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC) for public testing and evaluation. The Office of Coast Survey is upgrading the image quality from the current 254 DPI to 400 DPI. If no problems are identified or left unresolved, Coast Survey intends to upgrade all RNCs to 400 DPI by February 2014. Software product developers and RNC users are invited to provide comments or questions regarding this new service.

An online seamless viewer of NOAA's electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC) is available for public use at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/ENCOnline. Public comment and questions are invited.

Pitcher Plant Inspires Marine Protective Coating
A tropical carnivorous plant—the pitcher plant—that traps its prey inside its body with a virtually frictionless surface is inspiring a new generation of coatings capable of repelling ice and fouling on ship hulls.

The pitcher plant, Nepenthes, which is found in countries including Australia, Malaysia and Madagascar, has a special adaptation which creates a near frictionless surface with unique self-healing properties.

A team at Harvard University has now been able to mimic the pitcher plant's inner skin design to produce a transparent coating capable of being economically applied to almost any object large or small.

The multistage coating process involves attaching a thin but rough layer of porous silica particles, which are used to lock in a lubricating layer onto the surface to be protected.

By mimicking the pitcher plant's skin structure, the new coating self heals almost instantly, even if scraped. It is capable of operating in extreme temperatures and high pressure.

Caution Advised for Mariners to Protect Humpback Whales
With more than 10,000 humpback whales migrating to the Hawaiian Islands this year, crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA and Hawaii's Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement from the Department of Land and Natural Resources are partnering to protect humpback whales.

Humpback whale season is generally from November to May, with the peak season occurring January and March.

Whales come to the Hawaiian Islands to mate, calve and nurse their young. They return to Alaska in the summer months because Hawaii's waters are relatively nutrient-free and too warm to support enough of the humpback's food to sustain them year-round. The whales must migrate back to colder water to feed and rebuild their blubber supply.

There are several whale collisions near the Hawaiian Islands every year. Boaters can take proactive measures to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the whales, such as keeping a boat's speed down when whales are known to be in the area. Mariners should also maintain a sharp lookout at all times. Weighing an average of 45 tons, a humpback whale collision with a mariner can be catastrophic. While on routine patrol, Coast Guard boats and air crews scan the area for signs of whales. If whales are sighted, crews alert nearby mariners to ensure they remain away.

It is illegal to approach within 100 yards of a whale. Aircraft are also prohibited from flying within 1,000 feet of a whale.


-back to top-

Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.