NOAA's Ecosystem Goal Team Newsletter

March 2008


Spotlight On

In The News

Announcements

Publications

Upcoming Events

Migrations

 

"Spotlight on"


Enforcement


About the OLE

NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) is dedicated primarily to the enforcement of laws that protect and regulate our nation's living marine resources and their natural habitat. NOAA Fisheries' special agents and enforcement officers have specified authority to enforce over 37 statutes, as well as numerous treaties related to the conservation and protection of marine resources and other matters of concern to NOAA.

Most NOAA Fisheries Enforcement activities are conducted under one of the following laws: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (Lacey) and/or the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MSA).

While catches are usually seized at the onset of an investigation, violators can also be assessed both civil penalties and criminal fines; and on occasion boats are seized and individuals are sent to Federal prison.

NOAA Fisheries agents and officers can assess civil penalties directly to the violator in the form of Summary Settlements (SS) or they can refer the cases to NOAA's Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation (GCEL). GCEL can then assess a civil penalty in the form of a Notice of Permit Sanctions (NOPs) or a Notice of Violation and Assessment (NOVAs).

When situations warrant criminal penalties, such as with egregious or chronic violators, agents can refer their investigations to the applicable U.S. Attorney's Office. For perpetual violators or those whose actions have severe impacts upon the resource, criminal charges may range from severe monetary fines, boat seizures and/or imprisonment. Agents also investigate felony statutes such as conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling, etc when the illegal commodity involved is seafood.

While catches are usually seized at the onset of an investigation, violators can also be assessed both civil penalties and criminal fines; and on occasion boats, vehicles, businesses and seafood products are seized and forfeited to the government.

The Office of Law Enforcement also plays a key role in the enforcement of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as they relate to marine wildlife.

Agents and officers also work directly with a variety of member nations in relation to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The OLE works in conjunction with CCAMLR, in particular to Patagonian toothfish importation issues.

The OLE provides direct support to NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) by providing enforcement services to the NOS's 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and the new Papahanaumokuakea National Monument. Patrols, investigations and outreach efforts are conducted within the sanctuaries by OLE personnel or our state deputized partners.


Major issues


False Labeling of Seafood

The United State's Lacey Act is a law that makes it illegal for any person to: import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase, in interstate or foreign commerce, any fish or wildlife, taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law. Many international and domestic seafood companies routinely try to import and market falsely labeled seafood for a variety of reasons. The product might be mislabeled to disguise the true nature of the product, or it may be illegally harvested, illegal sized, illegal to outright possess, etc. Frequently, it involves an attempt to hide the Country of Origin, as the seafood may be illegal in the original harvesting country or there may be a significant import tax levied if the origin were accurately labeled.

There are three main ways in which false labeling occurs:

The first is where the exporter alters or mislabels boxes of seafood before they leave the country of origin. A prime example of this is Vietnamese farm raised catfish which sometimes gets falsely labeled as wild-caught grouper or snapper and then exported to the United States to avoid tariffs.

The second example occurs when a correctly-labeled box of seafood enters the U.S., and an importer or wholesaler subsequently repacks the seafood into a falsely labeled box in order to obtain a higher price per pound for the fictitious fish. Many less expensive fish fillets are falsely altered to erroneously reflect higher grades and more expensive species of fish.

The third example occurs when a retail fish store or a restaurant receives a container of seafood, for instance tilapia or farm-raised salmon, and then attempts to sell that seafood as another higher-valued fish such as sole or wild-caught salmon. This is done strictly for financial gain.

"Substitution in the seafood industry is an unfortunate, but prevalent occurrence, often at the expense of the resource and the consumer," said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Paul Raymond, NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement - Southeast Division.

To avoid violating the law and its subsequent stiff penalties, United States seafood companies need to learn, understand, and comply with the requirements and laws of countries in which they buy and export seafood. They also should attain a greater understanding of the product they are importing.

Expansion of Vessel Monitoring System

Over the past three years, the OLE has seen a monumental increase in the implementation and use of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).

Initially implemented into U.S. fisheries in 1994, VMS is now being used in 17 U.S. commercial fisheries from the Atlantic Sea Scallops fishery to the Pacific Cod fishery off Alaska. Using Global Positioning Satellites, satellite communications and a secure network to monitor fishing vessel compliance, the OLE's VMS now monitors over 5,350 commercial fishing vessels from Hawaii to Florida.

This satellite-based vessel monitoring program allows the OLE to locate high seas drift-net fishing vessels and monitor compliance with area restrictions. It also provides 24 or more position reports per day, accurate to 100 meters. VMS allows for continuously monitoring of closed areas and international boundaries.

The latest fishery to initiate use of VMS was the Pacific Coast Groundfish - Open-Access - Fishery in February 2008.

Enforcement in the National Marine Sanctuaries

In 2007, President Bush created the largest marine protected area in the world when he announced the creation of the Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument. Comprising an area known as the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, this new monument encompasses 140,000 square miles of pristine ocean, coral reefs, atolls and islands. The OLE is now responsible for the protection and conservation of 13 national marine sanctuaries and this new national marine monument.

With such vast areas of water encompassed within the sanctuaries, the OLE relies on VMS, patrols, and outreach to ensure compliance within the sanctuaries and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument area.

Typical violations that agents and officers encounter within the sanctuaries are fishing without a permit, groundings of vessels, chemical spills and harassment of marine mammals.

Agents and officers write warnings, seize evidence, issue fines, and initiate investigations, whichever is appropriate.

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In the News


Coastal Marine Resources: Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee Publishes Recommendations from 2006-2007

The Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee (MPA FAC) published its second set of recommendations entitled "Toward a National System of Marine Protected Areas: A Report by the MPA Federal Advisory Committee, Recommendations from 2006-2007". The recommendations are provided to the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior, and focus on the development and implementation of the national system of MPAs. Recommendations include developing processes for determining which existing MPAs will constitute the initial national system; developing plans for effective MPA management; incentives for participation in the national system; and regional approaches to planning and coordinating MPAs. The MPA FAC was established in 2003 under Executive Order 13158, and is made up of 30 appointed marine stakeholders from a broad variety of ocean interests. To find out more about the MPA FAC, and the 2006-2007 FAC report, visit www.mpa.gov. (Lauren.Wenzel@noaa.gov)


Coastal Marine Resources: Climate Change and the National System of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Highlighted in "MPA News"

The March issue of the newsletter, MPA News, includes a Perspectives piece written by Joe Uravitch, Director of the MPA Center, on the importance of conserving geologic features that could serve as surrogates for biodiversity in the context of climate change. One of the proposed near-term conservation objectives for the national system of MPAs is to "conserve ecologically important geological features and enduring/recurring oceanographic features." Although the intensity and rate at which climate change may occur is unknown, it is likely that submerged geologic features like reefs, hard bottoms, canyons, seamounts, etc., will be places where new species assemblages and ecosystems will form over time. A national system of MPAs will allow researchers and managers to better understand existing resources of key geologic features (both existing and potential sites), and establish monitoring capabilities to understand change over time. To view the March 2008 MPA News, visit: http://depts.washington.edu/mpanews/MPA94.htm. (Joseph.Uravitch@noaa.gov)


Coastal Marine Resources: MPA Center Partners with Filmmaker to Highlight Importance of MPAs in Conserving the Northern Elephant Seal

The MPA Center has partnered with California filmmaker Drew Wharton, writer, producer, and director of "A Seal's Life: The Story of the Northern Elephant Seal" on an educational DVD insert illustrating and explaining the importance of MPAs to the Northern Elephant Seal's life cycle and survival. Dr. Mimi D'Iorio, GIS Database Manager for the MPA Center, created a map that illustrates the relationship between northern elephant seal haul out and rookery sites and MPAs along the California coastline. The DVD insert includes the haul out/rookery site map and explains how beach MPAs provide habitat protection, while offshore MPAs help protect elephant seal feeding grounds (both along the west coast of the United States and in international waters). The educational insert and DVD will be distributed to 1,000 nonprofit and educational associations this spring. You can find out more about "A Seal's Life" at www.whartonmedia.com. (Kara.Schwenke@noaa.gov)

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Coral Reef Conservation: IYOR 2008 Messaging Campaign Offers Free Educational Products

In celebration of the International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR 2008), the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation led the development of a U.S. Messaging Campaign. The theme for the campaign is: 'Coral reefs for health, for wealth, for life,' which recognizes the value of coral reef ecosystems. In addition, to complement the tag line of 'Every Act Counts', three action messages were developed to raise awareness of the effects of everyday actions on coral reefs. Two local messages are also being developed for regions of the U.S. that contain reefs. For more information on these action messages, or to download your free copies, visit www.iyorcreative.com. Everyone is encouraged to participate and we welcome you to learn more about the international efforts for IYOR 2008 and how you can get involved.


Coral Reef Conservation: 19th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting

On February 27, NOAA co-chaired the 19th meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF). The USCRTF celebrated its tenth anniversary and the International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR 2008) during this meeting. Members also discussed the priority threats facing coral reef ecosystems and what actions and commitments are necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of these valuable ecosystems. Dr. Nancy Knowlton, Smithsonian Institution Sant Chair of Marine Science, delivered the keynote address challenging the USCRTF to focus on outcomes that have measurable impacts on coral reef health. The president of the Republic of Palau, HE Tommy Remengesau Jr., gave an inspiring address highlighting the success that is possible when we work beyond political boundaries. Finally, Wyland, the artist of IYOR 2008, unveiled his original painting "Year of the Reef." All meeting documents will be available on the Task Force Web site's Meetings page.

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Coral Reef Conservation: International Cyanide Detection Workshop Outcomes

The use of cyanide to capture live reef fish for both the food industry and the aquarium trade is wide spread in the Asia-Pacific region and not only leads to high mortality rates of the captured fish, but also damages and kills corals and other organisms on the reefs. This practice is illegal, but enforcement is difficult. To address this issue, NOAA convened a Cyanide Detection Workshop from February 6-8 in Orlando, Florida. Representatives attended from the NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and Office of Law Enforcement; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); domestic and international nongovernmental organizations; government officials from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam; and forensic chemists from USFWS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and academia. The attendees reviewed existing cyanide testing approaches and identified options for 1) cyanide detection testing (CDT) in the field in addition to export and import points; and 2) requirements in importing and exporting countries to address this problem. The group determined that a field test to quickly detect cyanide as well as a detailed quantitative laboratory analysis at export points was possible; however, more costly and time-consuming analyses of cyanide metabolites are necessary at points of import. Next steps, in priority order, include research to determine background levels and the half life in fish tissues of cyanide and cyanide metabolites, followed by validation of the existing (Ion Selective Electrode) test, proficiency programs for CDT labs, complementary legislation in importing and exporting countries, and implementation of a cohesive program to raise awareness and improve capacity for training, testing, and enforcement.

Recommendations were provided to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (Task Force) in February in response to the resolution on enforcement that was issued at the 15th Task Force meeting. In addition, detailed workshop proceedings will be compiled for release at a later date.


Coral Reef Conservation: NOAA Explores Underwater Habitats of Southwest Puerto Rico

From February 25 through March 8, NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) conducted the fifth year of an ongoing scientific research mission onboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. This was a collaborative mission with the Caribbean Fishery Management Council, the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico (MayagŁez), and the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute to collect data to support local marine management and monitoring strategies. The primary objective of the 2008 mission, funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and the CCMA, was to collect and integrate data obtained from a multibeam acoustic sonar system and data obtained from underwater imagery systems to create the first comprehensive map of coral ecosystems. Other project objectives included imaging and documenting the spatial distribution, abundance, and condition of fish, coral reefs and fishery resources. Data generated during this mission will support natural resource management in Federal and commonwealth waters of Puerto Rico, as well as help NOAA continue to meet its commitment to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force to map moderate depth (20-1000m) coral reef ecosystems. The mission has a dedicated Web page which includes daily logs, crew profiles, images, and more. This mission also incorporated a successful media day on February 27; two local Puerto Rican newspapers and the Associated Press (AP) participated. The AP story has been picked up by several affiliates, including this MSNBC story. In addition, Chief Scientist, Tim Battista, was interviewed by a Boston National Public Radio affiliate; the story aired on March 3.

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Ecosystem Research: Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., (Ret.) Administrator, NOAA gives Keynote Presentation at the 2008 Great Lakes Commission Semiannual Meeting "Ocean and Coastal Policy Priorities for the Great Lakes"

The 2008 Semiannual Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes Day in Washington were held Feb. 26-28 in Washington, D.C. The Vice Admiral highlighted NOAA Leadership's commitment to regional collaboration as an approach to engaging partners and customers and delivering NOAA services. The Great Lakes is one of eight Regional Collaboration Teams. His presentation emphasized the following points:

  • NOAA's Role in Building the Federal-Regional Partnership
  • Great Lakes Observing System and the Integrated Ocean Observing System
  • NOAA Climate Services and Great Lakes Activities
  • NOAA's Role and Capabilities in Restoration

Ecosystem Research: Oceans and Human Health Receives International Attention at Two Prominent Science Meetings

NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative (OHHI) hosted "From Kitchen Sinks to Ocean Basins: Emerging Chemicals of Concern (ECC) and Human Health" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting February 14 - 18, in Boston. Panelists included U.S. and Canadian government, academic and non-profit eco-toxicologists including representatives from NOAA's West Coast Center for OHH and the Hollings Marine Laboratory.

ECCs are showing up in unexpected places in the marine environment, with unanticipated impacts on marine wildlife health, and can lend unforeseen insights to potential health effects on humans. Effects discussed include impacts of untreated drugs in the water on fish reproduction and ecosystem viability; lethal effects of pesticide mixtures on endangered salmon; air pollution causes of cardiac malfunction in fish; and sea turtle immune responses to flame retardants at similar blood levels found in humans. Of the 30,000 chemicals found today in the environment (many of which are widely used in our cars, homes and lawns), only 4% are routinely monitored or analyzed. This session attracted reporters from around the world and to date has resulted in OHH-related stories in the Economist, LA Times, Science Magazine Podcast, Columbus Dispatch, CBS News Canada, Popular Science on-line and Medical News Today (UK).

OHH was also featured in a full-day session co-chaired by NOAA's OHHI and NSF-NIEHS Centers for OHH at the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting, March 2-7th in Orlando, Florida. Twenty-four papers were presented along with a poster session immediately following with broad representation from OHHI Centers and external grants. This joint meeting (ASLO, AGU, The Oceanography Society and Estuarine Research Federation) was the perfect venue to showcase developments in the growing field of OHH; a field that helps make the connections between multiple disciplines of ocean and medical sciences in order to answer complex human health questions. Recent scientific discoveries include antibiotic resistance in up to 61% of sick and stranded marine wildlife; similar gene regulation in fish exposed to domoic acid as in Alzheimer's disease; role of bio-film on bacteria to proliferate anti-biotic resistance; and development of biological sensors to detect disease threats in the ocean.

Contact Carolyn.Sotka@noaa.gov for more information.

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Ecosystem Research: Three Sea Grant Programs Team Up for Larval Study

Catherine House, a research technician working at the University of Delaware, is part of a tri-state team that is investigating how certain types of fish larvae come to the Delaware and Chesapeake estuaries after they've been spawned far offshore. Scientists from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are working together under a cooperative NOAA Sea Grant funding program that creates large-scale research programs by facilitating multistate collaborations.

The group's work will help fisheries managers understand how changes in environmental conditions and climate influence water movement and the ingress, or entrance, of fish larvae from open ocean waters to the fertile area where bay and river waters are affected by the tides.

The abundance of fish has changed. Atlantic croaker have shown up in bigger numbers in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays in the past two decades. For menhaden, there has been a decline in recruitment in the Chesapeake, but apparently not in the Delaware. In the case of American eel, there is a continent-wide decline in recruitments to estuaries.

"We want to know how much of the variability in fish populations is due to human activities such as fishing and how much is due to environmental changes," explained co-PI Elizabeth North. "In addition to supporting more informed harvest decisions, this information will help us understand how climate change will influence fish populations and the seafood industry that relies upon them."

North noted that federal funds (from NOAA) for "big boat" ship time have been a real boon to this research program. The cruises allow the researchers to collect samples and data in a short period of time. The ship's crew deploys a device called a Scanfish and another called a CTD to provide the researchers with data on water characteristics such as salinity, temperature, and depth. Once all the fish larvae samples are sorted and counted, the scientists will be able to relate fish numbers and sizes to the physical conditions of the water. They will link this information with historical data and numerical models and provide to fisheries managers a new understanding of why croaker, menhaden, and eel populations vary.


Ecosystem Research: Cost sharing partnerships expand Mussel Watch contaminant monitoring in California, Documenting Flame Retardant Additives in Urban Areas

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as flame retardant additives in plastics, textiles, and other consumer goods. The U.S. EPA has classified PBDEs as persistent organic pollutants suggesting that PBDEs have an extremely long environmental half-life and bioconcentrate in top predators. Concern over human health effects of PBDEs was heightened recently due to toxicological studies linking the compounds to liver and thyroid problems, endocrine disruption, and neurobehavioral development issues. North American women have the highest PBDE breast milk concentrations in the world.

In light of these concerns, scientist are taking a closer look. The National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program monitors the status of and detects changes in chemical contamination of U.S. coastal waters and Great Lakes. The Program began in 1986 and is the longest, continuous coastal monitoring program that is national in scope. Recently, Mussel Watch Program specimen bank samples were used to retrospectively measure chemical concentrations of PBDEs using bivalve and sediment samples from 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2006. The results of this nationwide assessment will be released as a Technical Memorandum that describes the distribution of PBDEs in U.S. Coastal Waters and identified geographic hot spots for these compounds. A new partnership between the Mussel Watch Program, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, and the California State Water Resources Control Board has led to an expansion of sample coverage and the better addressing of stakeholder needs.

Mussel Watch uses monitoring to identify areas of concern. Partnerships with local stakeholders allow the identified issues to be researched and the problems to be assessed in greater detail. This approach to addressing national contaminant concerns has been used to assess the environmental effects of a number of notable circumstances, including the collapse of the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, and several oil spills.

For more information, contact John.Christensen@noaa.gov.

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Fisheries Management: NOAA Seafood Consumer Guide, "FishWatch"

Seafood consumers in the U.S., increasingly concerned about the sustainability and quality of seafood, can now turn to a NOAA Fisheries Service Web site, FishWatch, for the latest information. The web site, http://www.fishwatch.noaa.gov, has information on more than 30 of the most popular seafood species, with more species to be added in the near future. FishWatch provides seafood consumers with timely information about seafood, such as red snapper. The Web site includes details on population strength and status, as well as consumer information such as on fat content and vitamins. FishWatch also provides economic information, such as where seafood comes from and how much money it brings to the economy.
Read the full press release at:
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/mediacenter/docs/fishwatch_FINAL.pdf


Fisheries Management: MSRA Accomplishments

On January 12, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA). The new law is groundbreaking in several respects: it mandates the use of annual catch limits and accountability measures to end overfishing, it provides for widespread market-based fishery management through limited access programs, and it calls for increased international cooperation.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is working to fully implement the MSRA. The MSRA requires a variety of new reports, studies, Secretarial determinations, and other activities to be completed by specific dates. There are also many required provisions that do not have specific due dates, but must be implemented. The Office of Sustainable Fisheries (SF) has been tracking the implementation of all these activities. For tracking purposes, SF has divided all tasks associated with implementation of MSRA into 3 priority levels:

Priority 1 - Time constrained - date-specified in the Act
Priority 2 - Required to be implemented but no specific date
Priority 3 - Action is authorized, but not required

During the first year of implementation, 11 Priority 1 tasks have been completed, 11 tasks are still on track for completion by statutory deadlines and 8 tasks are delayed. The agency is also implementing, to the extent practicable, other tasks under the MSRA that are either required (Priority 2) or authorized (Priority 3). As of January 2008, 21 Priority 2 tasks were completed, 2 tasks were in final review and 19 tasks were in progress. Read the complete progress report at:
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/msa2007/docs/msra_1yearreport
_revisedfinal.pdf

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Fisheries Management: Increase in the FSSI Score in 2007

The FSSI is a performance measure for the sustainability of 230 U.S. fish stocks selected for their importance to commercial and recreational fisheries. The FSSI will increase as overfishing is ended and stocks rebuild to the level that provides maximum sustainable yield. The FSSI is calculated by assigning a score for each fish stock based on five criteria:

Criteria

Points Awarded

1. "Overfished" status is known

0.5

2. "Overfishing" status is known

0.5

3. Overfishing is not occurring (for stocks with known "overfishing" status)

1.0

4. Stock biomass is above the "overfished" level defined for the stock

1.0

5. Stock biomass is at or above 80% of the biomass that produces maximum sustainable yield (BMSY)

1.0


The maximum score each stock may receive is 4. The value of the FSSI is the sum of all 230 individual stock scores. The maximum total FSSI score is 920, achieved if all 230 stocks were to each receive a score of 4.

There was an increase in the FSSI score for each quarter of the calendar year 2007, and it is as follows:

First Quarter (January 1 - March 31) - 508.5
Second Quarter (April 1 - June 30) - 516
Third Quarter (July 1 - September 30) - 524
Fourth Quarter (October 1 - December 31) - 531

To learn more about the FSSI score for 2007 and previous years go to: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/statusoffisheries/SOSmain.htm#07

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Habitat: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office Concludes Maryland Portion of Field Experiment to Simulate Ghost Fishing Effects on Benthic Habitat and Living Resources

Since 2005, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO), together with state resource managers, regional academic institutions, commercial watermen, nongovernmental organizations, and the public, has worked to quantify how many derelict crab traps there are in the Chesapeake Bay through its Derelict Fishing Gear Program (DFGP). A detailed 2007 side scan sonar survey of the Maryland portion of the Bay, informed by analysis and application of the distribution of commercial fishing effort, enabled NCBO to estimate that there are approximately 42,000 derelict crab traps in Maryland Bay waters. A similar survey is under way for the Virginia portion of the Bay.

DFGP has also been working to determine whether derelict traps adversely affect blue crab and other resources. NCBO set several groups of crab traps in October 2006 in a field experiment to simulate 'ghost fishing' in the Bay; DFGP monitored these experimental traps weekly for more than 18 months to examine the recruitment patterns of blue crab and bycatch species to derelict traps, and to estimate associated rates of mortality. The experimental traps were also evaluated for fouling and degradation rates of derelict traps. NCBO wrapped up the field portion of its Maryland DFG Impact Study on March 6, 2008. The NCBO Field Operations Team again used sonar to resurvey trap lines that had been set for study, and recovered all remaining traps. Several other components of the study in Maryland waters (including socioeconomic impact assessments and development and testing of mitigation and loss prevention methods) are under way. NCBO DFGP is leading a parallel study in Virginia waters, which will eventually enable estimation of DFG effects Bay-wide.

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Habitat: OHC and Southwest Region Partner with California and Coast Survey on Mapping Project

NMFS' Office of Habitat Conservation (OHC) and the Southwest Regional Office have launched a new partnership with the State of California and NOS's Office of Coast Survey to generate comprehensive habitat maps of California's coastal areas. OHC has provided $100K of Essential Fish Habitat program funds to initiate this project, which will result in maps of seafloor substrate, marine habitat types, and bathymetry for coastal California. These maps will contribute to efforts to refine essential fish habitat, designate and monitor marine reserves, understand sediment transport, and regulate offshore coastal development. In addition, OHC will use this project as a starting point to initiate future mapping partnerships with existing efforts under way within Coast Survey.


Habitat: Open Rivers Initiative - Dam Good News for Fish and Riverside Communities

More than 2 million dams block 600,000 miles of river in the United States alone, impeding fish from reaching their spawning grounds. Large dams without proper fish ladders are obvious barriers to migrating fish, but thousands of smaller, obsolete dams and culverts can have consequences as well. Through NOAA's new Open Rivers Initiative, regional experts are working to protect and restore access to historic migrating routes and engaging communities to help in the restoration process. The program moves far beyond the riverbank; NOAA works with citizens to help remove dams and restore the natural flow of the river, teaching people to care about their natural environment now and long into the future. River restorations also provide a variety of job opportunities to remove dams and culverts. A restored river also helps revive local commercial and recreational fisheries as fish return.

NOAA engages a large coalition of conservation organizations and community groups - including The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, Restore America's Estuaries, and the California Conservation Corps - to work with communities during the restoration process and leverage funding for projects. These organizations and their programs provide a great deal of support and expertise, providing great benefits for areas around the country.

"NOAA has made it possible for us to train young people who are often still deciding what they want to be when they grow up," said Melvin Kreb, northern service district director of the California Conservation Corps. "The experience they have in helping us restore the river opens their eyes to potential careers in natural resource management."

In the two years since the inception of NOAA's Open Rivers Initiative, nearly 150 communities around the country have requested technical assistance and funding to help remove fish passage barriers. NOAA is eager to respond, but funding has limited the program to 25 projects so far.


Protected Species Program: Species of Concern Accomplishments Report Released

NOAA's Protected Species Program recently released the 2007 Annual Report for the Species of Concern Program. The report is available online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/concern/. Highlights in the report include the funding of 9 projects to help improve the status of Species of Concern including Atlantic salmon, rainbow smelt, saltmarsh topminnows, black abalone, green sturgeon, Hawaiian reef coral, and others. Detailed fact sheets, as well as one-pagers, were created for outreach purposes for all 42 Species of Concern and are available on the website above. Eight publications and two presentations were made by the program. Numerous other projects, policy issues, and partnerships are detailed in the report.

Species of Concern are those species about which NOAA has some concerns regarding status and threats, but for which insufficient information is available to indicate a need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Species of Concern Program identifies species potentially at risk; determines data deficiencies and uncertainties in species' status and threats; increases public awareness about those species; stimulates cooperative research efforts to obtain the information necessary to evaluate species status and threats; and fosters voluntary in-the-field efforts to conserve the species before ESA listing becomes warranted.

For more information please contact: Dwayne.Meadows@noaa.gov

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Announcements


Coral Reef Conservation: New Class of Coral Reef Management Fellows

New Coral Reef Management fellows were selected to support island coral reef management efforts in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam and Puerto Rico.The Coral Reef Management Fellowship program provides technically proficient fellows who have the necessary experience to provide specialized support to jurisdictions in their coral reef conservation efforts. Simultaneously, the fellowship provides fellows with professional training in coastal and coral reef resource management.

The new fellows bring with them a diverse set of skills and knowledge, such as experience in watershed and MPA management, education and outreach experience, and technical expertise that will be utilized in their respective positions. Alyssa Edwards will be working with the American Samoa Coastal Management Program; Kathleen Herrmann will be working with the Division of Environmental Quality in CNMI; Elaina Todd will be working for Guam's Division of Marine and Wildlife Resources, and Raimundo Espinoza will be working for the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in Puerto Rico. Their fellowships began January 28 - 31 with an orientation program in HI. Learn more about the new fellows in the first issue of the quarterly Coral Fellowship Newsletter.

The new fellows will join current fellows Karlyn Langjahr, who has been working for the Coastal Zone Management Program in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Petra MacGowan, who works with the Division of Aquatic Resources in Hawaii. Both Karlyn and Petra have been in place for one year.

The CRCP extends a fond farewell to departing fellows Sharon Gulick, Lihla Noori, Romina King, and Maria del Mar Lopez and wishes them well in their future endeavors.Click here to learn more about the activities of the current class of fellows.


Coral Reef Conservation: NOAA Staff Recognized for Coral Conservation

On February 8, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) presented Jocelyn Karazsia with the "Shining Star" award for her outstanding contributions to the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI), Marine Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts Team. Facilitating creation of SEFCRI and its preparation of a Local Action Strategy for coral reef conservation are components of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. During the presentation, it was noted that Jocelyn leads or co-leads four projects for the team bringing enthusiasm and focus to these efforts. She also is the "federal navigator" for the team, serving as the liaison between the team and federal agencies. FDEP praised Jocelyn for her dedication, attention to detail, and willingness to share experiences that ensure SEFCRI projects reach their full potential. Jocelyn sits in the Southeast Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries.

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Coral Reef Conservation: NOAA and Partner Receive 'Jack Bayless Award' for Article on Black Grouper Spawning

Guillermo Paz of Green Reef Environmental Institute and Dr. George Sedberry of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary completed research sponsored by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program related to spawning of black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) in Belize. The goal was to document spawning locations, spawning habitat features and spawning seasons for black grouper in Belize; to describe their observed spawning behavior and aggregation; and to evaluate management measures to avoid population decline and spawning failure of this species. Dr. Sedberry presented their findings at the South Carolina Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Meeting and won the Jack Bayless Award for best scientific paper at the conference for the paper, 'Identifying Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) Spawning Aggregations off Belize: Conservation and Management'.


Protected Species and Coral Reef Conservation: NOAA Seeks Public Comment on Two Proposed Protections for Threatened Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals

NOAA is proposing to extend most of the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the threatened elkhorn and staghorn corals. Both species were listed as threatened in May 2006. Species listed as endangered under the ESA are automatically covered by a suite of protective measures and prohibitions in the law; however, these same measures and prohibitions do not automatically apply for threatened species. Therefore, NOAA Fisheries Service developed a separate proposed rule, called a 4(d) rule after section 4(d) of the ESA, detailing the prohibitions necessary to provide for the conservation of elkhorn and staghorn corals. The proposed rule would prohibit the take, trade and all commercial activities involving elkhorn and staghorn corals. Allowable activities are limited to qualified scientific research and enhancement and restoration activities carried out by an authorized agency. The public had 90 days to comment on the proposed rule; the comment period ended on March 13, 2008.

NOAA also proposes to designate approximately 4,931 square miles of marine habitat in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as critical habitat for these threatened species. Public hearings for the proposed critical habitat will be held in March and the public comment period for this proposal ends on May 6, 2008. Please note that the map indicating proposed critical habitat for Florida is incorrect. The description of the proposed area is correct and a corrected map will be published in the Federal Register in the near future.

You can access both of the Federal Register notices for these proposals, supporting documents, instructions for submitting comments, and Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Southeast Regional Office Web site.

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Publications


Coral Reef Conservation: NOAA Releases Report on Deep Sea Coral Program

On March 13, NOAA released the first report to Congress on the 'Implementation of the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program', called for in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA). Prepared under the auspices of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and in consultation with the Nation's eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, the report provides information on steps taken by NOAA and its partners to identify, monitor, and protect deep sea coral areas. Sections provide a brief discussion of current knowledge and knowledge gaps about deep sea corals (also known as deep water or cold-water corals), NOAA's expertise and authorities to conserve deep sea coral communities, and summaries of management actions taken by NOAA, the Fishery Management Councils, other federal agencies, and international organizations in 2007. The final section highlights research priorities for 2009 and recommendations for addressing knowledge gaps. The report also includes an initial list of areas known to contain deep sea corals that NOAA recommends the Regional Fishery Management Councils evaluate in considering zones to protect deep sea corals as allowed in discretionary provisions of the MSRA.


Coral Reef Conservation:Draft Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Report for American Samoa Available

During three American Samoa Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program expeditions in 2002, 2004, and 2006, scientists at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and partner organizations conducted comprehensive integrated ecosystem assessments and monitoring of biological communities, benthic habitats, and environmental conditions throughout the American Samoa archipelago. The draft version of the 'Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Report for American Samoa: 2002-2006' (Brainard et al.), describing the results of these interdisciplinary surveys, was presented to resource managers and key stakeholders during the 18th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in American Samoa in August 2007. While the final version of the report is in review, the draft is now available online to interested readers.


Ecosystem Research: Sea Grant Publishes Science for Ecosystem-Based Management: Narragansett Bay in the 21st Century

The book, edited by Rhode Island Sea Grant's Alan Desbonnet and Barry Costa-Pierce, addresses the broad problem of coastal nutrient pollution.

In the United States, approximately two-thirds of coastal rivers and bays are moderately to severely degraded from nutrient pollution. However, debates continue about how large a problem nutrient pollution is and what actions to take. Since effective management requires decisions at a local scale, an in-depth case study can provide valuable guidance.

Narragansett Bay is one of the best-studied estuaries in the world. Rhode Island has been developing regulatory and management actions to reduce nutrient inputs, particularly those of nitrogen, to the waters of Narragansett Bay.

This book was developed in response to a symposium addressing this mandate with coastal/estuarine scientists and environmental management agency personnel. The contributors use long-term data sets to discuss the interactions among biological, ecological, chemical, and physical processes, and discuss what is known about nutrient inputs to the Bay ecosystem, the impacts related to nutrient inputs, and how the ecosystem might respond to a sudden reduction in these inputs.

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Upcoming Events


Coral Reef Conservation: 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, July 7-11, 2008

Every four years the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) convenes as a major scientific conference of the International Society for Reef Studies to provide the latest knowledge about coral reefs worldwide. The 11th ICRS, with the theme of Reefs for the Future, will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, July 7-11, 2008. Symposium Co-Hosts include the State of Florida and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. The 11th ICRS is also a keystone event within the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008. NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) will be participating on several levels, including as a sponsor and participating in a 'One-NOAA' exhibit booth; CRCP staff will be presenting papers, moderating sessions and giving presentations.


Coral Reef Conservation: National Science Teacher's Association 56th National Conference, March 27-30, 2008

Building upon NOAA's existing partnership with the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA), the Coral Reef Conservation Program will be participating in the 56th National Conference on Science Education, "Science: Bridge to the Future." The goal of the conference is to bring the very latest science content, research findings, and teaching techniques to the classroom teacher. CRCP staff will participate as exhibitors in a 'One-NOAA' booth, as presenters, and will moderate a session on coral.


Ecosystem Research: Announcing the 2008 Oceans and Human Health Gordon Conference

The 2008 Oceans and Human Health Gordon Conference will be held June 29 - July 4, 2008 in Tilton, New Hampshire. This conference will be preceded by a special "Graduate Research Seminar on Oceans & Human Health". The purpose and scope of this Gordon Research Conference is to provide a multidisciplinary platform for discussing the current state of knowledge of the rapidly evolving, highly interdisciplinary fields that comprise OHH, to identify and debate unresolved questions, and to discuss new research directions. The conference will bring together experts with diverse backgrounds including algal and microbial biology, physical and biological oceanography, epidemiology and public health, genomics and proteomics, toxicology and pharmacology, and anthropology and global change modeling.

Interested participants need to apply to attend and submit a Poster Abstract for presentation with their application. Applications for this meeting must be submitted by June 8, 2008. Please apply early, as some conferences become oversubscribed (full) before this deadline.

Visit the GRC OHH Conference website for application and registration information. http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?year=2008&program=oceans

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Migrations


CRCP Comings and Goings

NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) bids a fond farewell to Liza Johnson and Leonard Pace. Liza acted as the CRCP Headquarters Sea Grant Fellow in 2006 and then was hired as the CRCP Education specialist, a position she held from February 2007 through February 2008. Leonard was the CRCP Headquarters Sea Grant Fellow in 2007. Leonard is now working with invasive species in NOAA Fisheries.

The CRCP would also like to welcome three new staff members and two new Sea Grant Fellows:

  • On February 19, Maria Barry joined the CRCP as the Headquarters Communications and Outreach Specialist. Maria comes to us from the Foundation for the National Institutes for Health where she was the partnership development officer. Maria has extensive experience in communications and public relations in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors.
  • On February 19, Sarah Bobbe joined the CRCP Headquarters to support the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF). Sarah's position is supported by NOAA and Department of Interior, the Co-chairs of the USCRTF. Sarah joins the CRCP from the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, LLP.
  • On March 17, Susie Holst joined the CRCP headquarters team as the PPBES coordinator. Susie previously served as the Assistant Director of Marine Programs at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and she has previous experience working in conjunction with the CRCP in the Southeast and Hawaii.
  • The CRCP has two new Sea Grant Fellows. Paulo Maurin, a HI fellow, sits in the Headquarters office and works on USCRTF support and education initiatives. Glynnis Robers, a CA fellow, sits in Fisheries' Ecosystem Assessment Division and works on marine trade issues.

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NEXT ISSUE GUIDANCE

The next Newsletter will be distributed on May 23, 2008. Please send submissions to Karen.Eason@noaa.gov by NOON on Friday, May 9th . Please try to limit the length of your submissions to 350 words or less.

The Newsletter is a bimonthly e-mail newsletter on Ecosystem Goal Team activities throughout NOAA. The Newsletter is produced by the NOAA Ecosystem Goal Team staff to facilitate communication within NOAA and serve as a source of ecosystem information. The NOAA Ecosystem Goal Team supports effective management and sound science to promote an ecosystem approach to management.

Submissions, questions or comments?
Contact Karen Eason, NOAA Ecosystem Goal Team
(301) 713-9075 x160

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March 28, 2008