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Marine Resources


June 2014 Issue

MPAs up for Discussion in Ross Sea, East Antarctica
The 2014 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in Brasilia, Brazil, brought renewed optimism among organizations working for marine protection in the Antarctic after key countries committed to work together in the lead up to this October's Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart, Australia.

CCAMLR was established under the Antarctic Treaty, made up of 24 member countries and the European Union. CCAMLR is responsible for protecting the marine life of Antarctica's Southern Ocean and operates by consensus.

Parties to the Antarctic Treaty encouraged CCAMLR to continue discussions on marine protected areas (MPAs) in the months leading up to their annual meeting, during which two MPA proposals in the Southern Ocean will be considered.

All 25 CCAMLR members had previously committed to establishing a system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean by 2012. At a meeting in November 2013, however, they disagreed on two MPA proposals for East Antarctica (proposed by Australia, the EU and France), and the Ross Sea (proposed by New Zealand and the U.S.).

The proposed MPAs cover several million square kilometers of the Southern Ocean with a combination of multiple use MPAs and fully protected no-take marine reserves.

BOEM, OSU Study Seafloor Offshore Pacific Northwest
In anticipation of renewable energy projects offshore the Pacific Northwest and the need to better understand seafloor (benthic) habitats and inhabitants that may be affected by energy activities, BOEM partnered with Oregon State University's (OSU) Hatfield Marine Science Center in 2010 to characterize the area's benthic environments and biological communities.

An early goal of the study, called the Survey of Benthic Communities near Potential Renewable Energy Sites Offshore the Pacific Northwest, was to collect information about different seafloor habitats and the invertebrates living in those habitats. OSU researchers mapped the seafloor and sampled invertebrate species at multiple offshore sites between Grays Harbor, Washington, and Fort Bragg, California. By integrating new habitat information with information from other studies, researchers updated and expanded a regional map of habitat types including sand, mud, gravel and rocky reefs.

Researchers found that unique assemblages of invertebrates occur in distinct habitat types, and that water depth and sediment size are key factors in differentiating communities. Based on the identified habitat-species relationships, researchers then developed a model to predict which invertebrate communities are likely to occur in unsampled areas.

As the four-year study nears its conclusion in September 2014, 500 square miles of seafloor (approximately 7 percent of the Pacific Northwest continental shelf) has been mapped and biological information at about 400 sample stations has been collected.

NOAA's Reuben Lasker to Conduct Pacific Surveys
NOAA has commissioned a state-of-the-art fisheries survey vessel, NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, in San Diego, California. The ship will conduct fish, marine mammal and turtle surveys off the U.S. West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Reuben Lasker is the fifth in a series of ultra-quiet, high-tech fisheries survey vessels designed to meet the NOAA Fisheries Service's data collection requirements. The ship was built by Marinette Marine Corp. (Marinette, Wisconsin).

The 208-foot ship is equipped with advanced navigation systems, acoustic sensors, scientific sampling gear and extensive laboratories.

NOAA HF Radar to Provide Near-Real-Time Current Data
A new NOAA National Ocean Service website will provide mariners near-real-time coastal ocean surface current observations and tidal current predictions in coastal waters using high-frequency (HF) radar, making marine navigation safer for mariners and commercial shippers. The Web-based observations are now available for the Chesapeake and San Francisco Bays in areas vital for marine navigation, with additional locations to follow.

The product uses data from the NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).

HF radars can measure currents over a large region of the coastal ocean, from a few miles offshore up to 125 miles out, and can operate under any weather conditions.

Located near the water's edge, HF radar does not need to be atop a high point of land. HF radars are the only sensors, including satellites, that can measure large areas at once with the detail required for important applications.

Odyssey Recovers Gold, Samples from Shipwreck
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (Tampa, Florida) has recovered nearly 1,000 ounces of gold during the first reconnaissance dive to the SS Central America shipwreck site. Recovered gold included five gold ingots and two $20 Double Eagle coins (one 1857 minted in San Francisco, California, and one 1850 minted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

The two-hour reconnaissance dive was conducted during the transit of Odyssey's RV Odyssey Explorer from the U.K. to Charleston, South Carolina.

During the dive, Odyssey's ROV ZEUS flew over the shipwreck to assess the condition of the site. Gold ingots and other artifacts were visible on the surface of the site during the dive and no excavation was required for their removal. Given the reconnaissance purpose of the dive, only five gold ingots, two gold coins, a bottle, a piece of pottery, a sample of the shipwreck's wooden structure, and an element of a scientific experiment that was left at the site more than 20 years ago were recovered. The archaeological excavation of the site will begin once the predisturbance survey provides detailed documentation of the site.

In addition to the cargo recovery operation, the plan is to collect deep-ocean biological samples for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of species that have returned to the site since previous operations ended in 1991 in order to understand deep-ocean biological processes.


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