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Marine Resources


March 2016 Issue

Deep-Sea Mining
Vehicles Set Sail

The world’s first deep-sea mining vehicles, designed and built by SMD for Nautilus Minerals, have set sail for Duqm Port in Oman.

In addition to the three mining machines, or Seafloor Production Tools (SPTs), SMD designed and manufactured the full spread equipment required to remotely operate, launch and recover the SPTs from the deck of the ship onto which they will be installed in 2017.

The SPTs will undergo extensive wet testing at the port facility in Oman, which is designed to provide a submerged demonstration of the fully assembled SPTs, prior to commencement of the first mining operations in 2018.

Statoil Moves Into
Uruguay Exploration

Statoil Uruguay B.V. has agreed with Total E&P Uruguay B.V. to acquire 15 percent of working interest in offshore exploration block 14 in Uruguay. This represents a new impact opportunity for Statoil and a new country entry.

Block 14 is located in the Pelotas basin of the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 200 km off the coast of Uruguay. It covers an area of 6,690 sq. km in water depths of 1,850 to 3,500 m.

Total has completed an extensive data collection program, including acquiring new 3D seismic data covering the block. The partnership is now preparing to drill the Raya prospect during the first half of 2016.

Catalina Sea Ranch
Attracts More Investment

Catalina Sea Ranch, LLC has raised $1,825,000 from Southern California community leaders interested in aquaculture. This investment increases the total capital raised by the company to $2,855,000, which will fund the initial phase of its aquaculture facility and initiate its innovative monitoring program. Purchase orders for buoys, floats, ropes, anchors and mussel seed have been placed, and the first harvest of sustainable mussel crops is scheduled at the end of 2016.

Catalina Sea Ranch has the first permit for offshore aquaculture in U.S. federal waters. This 100-acre venture will annually produce 2.5 million lb. of sustainable shellfish grown 30 feet under the water surface 6 mi. offshore Huntington Beach, California.

Offshore aquaculture has the potential to provide a local source of nutritious seafood and help reduce the U.S.’s $11 billion seafood deficit.

Catalina Sea Ranch will also serve as a pilot for evaluating the potential of a sustainable shellfish industry for Southern California. A rigorous monitoring program with advanced communication technologies will provide the scientific data for domestic expansion and the advancement of global offshore aquaculture.

Oyster Reef Projects
Need Monitoring

The settlement of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill fines—the largest pollution penalty in history—will bring an unprecedented opportunity to spend billions of dollars on restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico region. But new research by Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies graduate Dr. Brittany Blomberg has found that the fate of hundreds of previous oyster reef restoration projects performed around the U.S. remains unknown; an investment of more than $45 million and thousands of hours of labor.

Blomberg’s dissertation, “Evaluating the Success of Oyster Reef Restoration,” queried the National Estuaries Restoration Inventory, a database established with the 2000 Estuary Restoration Act. The act made the nationwide restoration of degraded marine habitats a priority and required the tracking and dissemination of data related to those projects.

Blomberg reviewed database entries for more than 192 oyster restoration projects entered into the National Estuaries Restoration Inventory and found that, despite federal requirements to the contrary, monitoring data for those projects were not available. Without that data, it is impossible for researchers to get a big picture view of the effectiveness of oyster restoration projects over the last decade and develop better strategies for future projects.

In the Gulf of Mexico, oyster habitat losses number 50 to 80 percent. Evaluating the effectiveness of restoration becomes especially urgent in light of the $20.8 billion Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement reached with BP. That settlement will send billions to the five Gulf States for restoration projects, with more than $160 million earmarked for oyster restoration projects.

New Method to
Restore Coral Reefs

Restoring coral reefs is getting easier thanks to a technique for growing corals larger and faster. The method, created by Mote scientists and colleagues, is called microfragmentation and fusion and can be used to rapidly cover a variety of substrates with coral tissue.

Mote, the Division of Aquatic Resources in Hawaii and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology reported that after 139 days, they were able to increase star coral in size by as much as 329 percent and brain coral by 129 percent in their land-based nursery. While some reef-building corals in the wild might grow 1 cm or less in diameter or length per year, the corals raised in this study grew at several times the rate of their wild kin.

Mote is using the new method to begin reskinning large, dead skeletons of brain, boulder and star coral on natural reefs in the Florida Keys.

Robots Map Coldwater
Reefs Off England

A fleet of robotic submarines, based at the U.K. National Oceanography Centre (NOC), have been used to map vulnerable coldwater coral reefs in the deep ocean off southwest England. This will inform the management of a new Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) that protects the only area of deep-sea coral habitat in English waters.

Data were collected from The Canyons MCZ, over 300 km southwest of Cornwall, England. Collected data include 3D maps of the seafloor and high-quality video and photos, and show the location and extent of the corals.


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