Tagged: Marine Conservation

Ecology Lays Out Plan For Considering Pacific Shore Projects

The state Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on a draft plan to address how to make decisions about potential new projects along the Pacific Coast. Requests could be received for such projects as renewable energy, dredging disposal, mining, marine product harvesting, military uses and offshore aquaculture operations, Ecology said. “The Department of Ecology has been leading a state effort to plan and prepare for these potential new coastal uses,” Ecology said in a press release.

Sea life abounds on the pristine reefs in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. (Credit: Kaleomanuiwa Wong

No More Marine Monuments?

The House Natural Resources Committee held a markup on Wednesday to consider the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990) and a resolution concerning the Interior Department’s review of the Antiquities Act (H.Res. 555). The National Monument Creation and Protection Act, which passed out of committee along a party line vote (23-17) would eliminate the president’s ability to designate marine monuments and would require consent from Congress to protect large terrestrial areas. H.Res. 555, which failed along the same vote margin, would have asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to provide Congress with more information about his recent report that would significantly reduce the size of at least four national monuments.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act has helped restore U.S. fish populations, and now 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. (Credit: Bruno de Giusti, Wiki Commons)

Debate Continues Over Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to address four federal fisheries management bills. Two would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; PL 109-479) – the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 200) and the Strengthening Fishing Communities through Improving Science, Increasing Flexibility, and Modernizing Fisheries Management Act (a discussion draft that has not been introduced).

July was a busy month for ocean-related legislation.

July’s Congressional Wrap Up

Nothing in COL’s legislative tracker was signed into law this month, but several items did pass out of committee, the House, or the Senate. Notably, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017 (S.756) passed the Senate with unanimous consent last week. The legislation (and its counterpart in the House (H.R. 2748)) reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 109-332) “to promote international action to reduce marine debris.”

A clump of Spartina alterniflora, a common wetland grass in the Chesapeake Bay.

HELP For Wildlife Act Advances To Senate Floor

Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest bay in the country was so polluted and disease-ridden that oysters, seagrass beds, and blue crabs declined in alarming numbers, threatening the economy of the region and wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Since the creation of the program in 1983, the conditions in the bay have been slowly, but surely, improving. The HELP for Wildlife Act (S. 1514), which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public by a vote of 14-7, is a comprehensive (though controversial) recreational hunting and conservation bill that reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act has helped restore U.S. fish populations, and now 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. (Credit: Bruno de Giusti, Wiki Commons)

House Fishes For Improvements To Magnuson-Stevens Act

Only 31 years ago, fleets from foreign countries could fish as close as 12 nautical miles to the United States shoreline. Fish populations were severely depleted, impacting livelihoods for fishers and threatening biodiversity. As a result, Congress passed the bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This law extends U.S. jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles, uses science-based management to rebuild stocks and prevent overfishing, and ensures an economically sustainable yield via quotas and annual catch limits. The 1976 law created eight regional fishery management councils and has been updated twice, once in 1996 and again in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding, and now, 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to discuss areas for improvement to consider upon reauthorization. Both sides of the aisle praised the successes of the law and conceded need for change but had different ideas for what those alterations might be.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. (Credit: Wikiwand)

Endangered Species Act In Danger?

What do blue whales, loggerhead sea turtles, southern bluefin tuna, dugongs, manatees, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, and Elkhorn corals have in common? They’re all listed as endangered – and therefore federally protected – under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With alarming numbers of North Atlantic right whale deaths and fishing entanglements this summer, this 1973 law is at the forefront of marine scientists’ minds. In a House Natural Resources hearing on Wednesday, the full committee gathered to discuss five Republican-authored bills to reform the landmark act. The majority press release identifies the goals of the bills as increasing responsibilities of states, improving data transparency, altering listing and delisting processes, and discouraging costly lawsuits.

This is an example of an off-bottom oyster culture technique used today in New England. (Credit: NOAA)

Sea Grant Supports A Culture Of Success

Imagine a trip to the Chesapeake Bay without feasting on their iconic oysters. In recent years, wild oyster populations have been devastated by factors both manmade and natural. Although wild-caught oysters face restoration issues, aquaculture (which is essentially seafood farming) is a growing industry providing shellfish to the market. After success in the Chesapeake region, entrepreneurs around the country have jumped on board over the past three decades to begin their own aquaculture businesses raising oysters, fish, and even seaweed.

Fish swim around a decommissioned oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico acting as an artificial reef. (Credit: BOEM)

One Man’s Trash Is Some Fish’s Treasure

Iron isn’t just good for your bones and growth – it’s good for the ocean, too. That’s what advocates of the “Rigs-to-Reefs” program, which converts decommissioned oil rigs into artificial marine habitat, claim. But what if that iron is also steeped in a toxic substance like oil waste products? In a Wednesday hearing, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources heard a variety of views on the program’s benefits to the natural ecosystem, taxpayers, and oil companies.