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Marine Resources


October 2014 Issue

NOAA Lists 22 Coral Species Under ESA
NOAA has given protection to 22 species of coral under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the two corals (elkhorn and staghorn) listed as threatened in 2006. Fifteen of the newly listed species occur in the Indo-Pacific and five in the Caribbean.

The final decision is a significant change from the proposed rule in November 2012, which proposed listing 66 species (a mix of threatened and endangered). NOAA changed the determinations for many of the species for two reasons. One was that they received and gathered new general and species-specific information. The other is that public comments helped refine the way NOAA applies all the available information to determine vulnerability to extinction of each species considered.

There are currently no prohibitions relating to individual conduct, except for those related to elkhorn and staghorn corals in the Caribbean.

NOAA will consult with federal agencies on actions that they execute, fund or authorize that could affect listed corals to ensure the action does not jeopardize these corals. In the future, NOAA may also identify specific regulations for the conservation of these threatened species because ESA prohibitions against “take” are not automatically applied as they are for species listed as endangered. NOAA will continue to work with communities to help them understand how the agency’s decision may or may not affect them. The agency will work with partners on mitigation measures and recovery strategies for the newly listed corals.

NOAA Moves to Protect Bluefin Tuna
NOAA Fisheries issued a strong final amendment for protecting bluefin tuna. The new amendment will help stop western Atlantic bluefin—and approximately 80 other types of marine wildlife—from unnecessarily dying on surface longlines, fishing gear that is intended primarily for yellowfin tuna and swordfish but indiscriminately kills other species.

Bluefin tuna are as fast as racehorses and grow to the size of a small car. These “superfish” make transoceanic migrations, can dive deeper than 4,000 feet, and live up to 40 years. But bluefin are no match for wasteful fishing methods. The population of western Atlantic bluefin tuna is just 36 percent of its already depleted 1970 level. This decline is caused in part by surface longlining.

Surface longlines average 30 miles in length, use hundreds of baited hooks, and often remain in the water untended for up to 18 hours. This gear catches and kills bluefin along with many other species, including hammerhead sharks, blue marlin and leatherback sea turtles.

For the past half-century, surface longlines in the Gulf of Mexico have been a serious danger to western Atlantic bluefin tuna. The Gulf is the fish’s only known spawning area. The same fishing gear poses a similar threat to bluefin feeding off the coast of North Carolina.

The final amendment restricts the use of surface longline fishing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico and off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, while promoting highly selective gear, such as greensticks for yellowfin tuna and buoy gear for swordfish. Ensuring that surface longlines are not used when and where bluefin gather in great numbers to spawn and feed will dramatically reduce the amount needlessly caught and killed.

This amendment also establishes a new annual limit on the incidental catch of bluefin on surface longlines and 100 percent electronic monitoring of the surface longline fleet.

MeyGen Tidal Energy Project Gets Consent
MeyGen (Edinburgh, Scotland) has secured funding from the Crown Estate and the Scottish government for the first phase of its Pentland Firth tidal renewable energy project.

The MeyGen project, which is the largest tidal scheme to have consent in Europe, will ultimately consist of up to 400 megawatts of generating capacity, enough energy to power 400,000 homes. The project is situated in approximately 3.5 square kilometers of the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth off the north coast of Scotland between Caithness on the Scottish mainland and the Island of Stroma.

Kongsberg Underwater Photo, Video Contest Underway
Searching for the best images and videos taken using its underwater SD and HD cameras, Kongsberg Maritime’s (Kongsberg, Norway) “The Full Picture Photo and Video Competition” will run through November 30.

All users of Kongsberg Maritime subsea cameras are invited to submit their best underwater still photos, SD or HD videos for a chance of winning an iPad, iPod or digital camera, with the added incentive of the possibility of images being selected for use in Kongsberg Maritime promotional material. Entries can be submitted on the competition’s homepage (http://bit. ly/1zyfkmp).

To qualify for entry, all photos and video footage must be taken with a Kongsberg Maritime camera product. Submitted materials must not be previously published, must specify the camera model number with which they were taken and be cleared for use by Kongsberg Maritime. Full competition terms and conditions can be found on the website.

The Full Picture Photo and Video Competition follows Kongsberg Maritime’s Bathymetric Photo Competition, which took place earlier this year. The winners of that competition can be seen at http://bit.ly/1viATcZ.

Cobscook Bay May Add Another Tidal Energy Project
Halcyon Tidal Power LLC (Augusta, Maine) seeks to build a $125 million tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay, Maine, reported the Portland Press Herald. This 24-megawatt development could power more than 13,000 homes.

Cobscook Bay experiences huge tides, which makes it attractive to energy developers.

The Halcyon power plant’s turbines would be driven by pressure from the fall and rise of tides, not by currents. Pumps would be used to mimic tides if needed.

The aim is for the plant to produce electricity at market rates and be online in 2018.


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