Coral in an area in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Connecticut to Virginia has been protected from deep-sea commercial fishing gear, by a new rule issued this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The protected area covers some 38,000 square miles of federal waters, NOAA says, which is about the size of Virginia. It’s the “largest area in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico protected from a range of destructive fishing gear,” according to the NRDC, an environmental advocacy group.
Today, the National Ocean Council (NOC) finalized the Nation’s first ocean plans, taking a historic step toward fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to healthy ocean ecosystems and a strong, sustainable marine economy. The two regional plans, the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan, promote the use of integrated ocean data and best practices for informed and efficient management of the Nation’s shared marine resources. This approach is designed to work across all levels of government and to advance economic, environmental, and cultural priorities within each region. In addition to years of historic collaboration among states, tribes, Federal agencies, and Fishery Management Councils, the Plans are a result of extensive participation and input from marine stakeholders representing fishing, recreation, energy, transportation, telecommunications, and many other interests.
Most homebuyers don’t think about Antarctica when buying beachfront property. But maybe they should. The 5.4 million-square-mile Antarctic ice sheet is melting, and scientists estimate that if it disappeared completely, sea level would rise by 200 feet. While no one expects complete melting to happen in the immediate future, competing pressures are increasing the rate of ice melt, whose impacts will be felt in varying ways around the globe – and could even affect that beachfront buy sooner rather than later. In addition to Antarctica’s globally significant role in sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric circulation, and carbon cycling, it has a unique ecosystem that offers myriad opportunities for scientific research. Last week, at a congressional briefing hosted by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), scientists discussed the changing Antarctic and research opportunities in light of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s strategic vision for NSF-supported research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean over the next ten years.
A remote and largely pristine stretch of ocean off Antarctica received international protection on Friday, becoming the world’s largest marine reserve as a broad coalition of countries came together to protect 598,000 square miles of water.
If you’ve ever spent a quiet afternoon fishing on a lake or kayaking past the greenery of a salt marsh, you’ve likely encountered programs and projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees. FWS protects and manages our nation’s numerous fish and wildlife resources and uses conservation practices to give everyone in our nation the opportunity to enjoy those resources. FWS first introduced their Mitigation Policy in 1981, which was comprised of “recommendations on mitigating the adverse impacts of land and water developments on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.” The need for revisions to the decades-old policy stems from climate change, new conservation science, and the increasing loss of habitats for many organisms protected by the FWS. The draft policy was available for public comment from March to May 2016, and since then, the agency has been making revisions to their policy. A hearing on September 22 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife reviewed the proposed changes.
In school, most students learn to measure acidity or pH with a litmus test. Unfortunately, monitoring the acidity of the ocean is not as simple as dunking a small piece of paper in liquid and waiting for the color to change, and the impacts of acidity changes to marine life are more complex than a simple change in color. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, which makes it difficult for marine calcifiers (a group comprised of many different organisms, such as molluscs, crustaceans, and corals) to make their own shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification doesn’t just harm these creatures. It threatens our nation’s economic stability, from our $7.3 billion seafood industry to our $101.1 billion recreation and tourism sector. But it doesn’t stop there – it also affects our homeland security.
Deep in the oceans exist some of the world’s oldest and most mysterious sea canyons and mountains, or seamounts. Formed millions of years ago by extinct volcanoes and sediment erosion, sea canyons and seamounts are biodiversity hot spots — home to many rare and endangered species.
The first two weeks of July were especially busy on Capitol Hill as lawmakers made a final legislative push before they left for recess. Appropriations bills were high on their agenda since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 expires at the end September, and the Senate and House are now on a seven-week hiatus until September 6.
Representative Sam Farr (CA-20) opened the Marine Technology Society and the House Oceans Caucus Congressional briefing this week by noting his attempts over 28 years in Congress “trying to develop as much interest in the ocean as there is in space.”
Rules will require extensive contingency plans in event of oil spill.