Archive for the ‘Coral reef’ Tag

Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill

A NOAA seafood tester examines shrimp as part of a sensory test.

Steve Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program, demonstrates sensory analysis of a sample of shrimp on July 8, 2010, at NOAA’s National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss. (NOAA)

When oil spills into coastal waters, both federal and state governments have established protocols to test and monitor seafood safety. When spill response managers determine that seafood may be affected, the next step is to assess whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that could pose a risk to human health through consumption.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are two ways that oil can cause seafood to be unfit for consumption.

The first is through the presence of certain levels of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are carcinogenic. (Oil is composed of many chemicals. However, it is the carcinogenic, or potentially cancer-causing, PAHs which are of greatest concern because they can be harmful if consumed in sufficient amounts over a prolonged period of time.)

The second way seafood would be considered unfit for consumption is if it smells or tastes like a petroleum product. This is known as the presence of “taint.” Under U.S. law, a product tainted with petroleum is considered “adulterated” and is not permitted to be sold as food. Petroleum “taint” in and of itself is not necessarily harmful and may be present even when PAHs are below harmful levels; however, it should not be present at all.

NOAA, in collaboration with FDA and state health agencies, may conduct a combination of both sensory analysis and chemical analysis of tissue to determine if seafood is safe following a spill. The NOAA Seafood Inspection Program is often called upon to perform screening and training tasks following major oil spills. Program experts perform sensory analysis to detect oil taint. Additionally, NOAA’s science centers may conduct chemical analysis for petroleum contaminants.

Related Publications

The following OR&R publications provide information about monitoring seafood for contamination after an oil spill:

Managing Seafood Safety after an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.0 MB]: This 2002 guide was written to help seafood managers and other spill responders determine appropriate seafood management actions in response to a spill.

Guidance on Sensory Testing and Monitoring of Seafood for Presence of Petroleum Taint Following an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.7 MB]: This 2001 guidance document describes how to conduct sensory testing on seafood suspected of petroleum taint.

Order a copy: Contact us by email or phone (206.526.6400) to request a printed copy of these publications.

Seafood Safety During the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill

During the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill in 2010, NOAA Fisheries Service worked closely with the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and state health and fisheries agencies in the Gulf of Mexico region to establish a protocol for use in re-opening oil-impacted areas closed to seafood harvesting. You can read more about the FDA’s testing protocol to re-open harvest waters that were closed in response to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

More Information about Seafood Safety

Keeping Seafood Safe: Read about NOAA’s involvement to keep seafood safe during the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, including closing and monitoring harvest areas, collecting seafood samples, and training Gulf state employees as sensory screeners.

Passing the “Sniff Test”: In Assessing Gulf Coast Seafood, the Nose Knows: The chief quality officer for NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to ensure that the seafood that reaches your local market or seafood counter is safe to eat.

Sensory Analysis of Seafood Samples in Pascagoula, Miss. [Video]: Learn more as Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Deepwater Horizon response FOSC tours NOAA’s seafood sample testing facility in Pascagoula, Miss. on Oct. 8, 2010.

Improving Seafood Safety Management After an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.6 MB]: This paper, published at the 2003 International Oil Spill Conference, aims to ease and expedite the decision-making process of seafood safety managers in the wake of an oil spill.

Source: Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill | response.restoration.noaa.gov

For the First Time in Decades, Scientists Examine How Oil Spills Might Affect Baleen Whales

Several days of unseasonably warm weather in late September had Gary Shigenaka starting to wonder how much longer he and his colleagues would be welcome at Ohmsett, a national oil spill research facility in New Jersey.

March 16, 2016 Leave a comment

A North Atlantic right whale's mouth is visible at the ocean surface.

NOAA scientists and partners recently collaborated to examine how oil and dispersants might affect the function of baleen in humpback, bowhead, and right whales (pictured). Hundreds of baleen plates hang from these whales’ top jaws and allow them to filter food from the water. (Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Permit 15488)

They were working with whale baleen, and although the gum tissue anchoring their baleen samples had been preserved with formalin, the balmy fall weather was taking a toll. As a result, things were starting to smell a little rank.

Fortunately, cooler weather rounded out that first week of experiments, and the group, of course, was invited back again. Over the course of three week-long trials in People attaching baleen plates in a clamp to the moving bridge over a saltwater test tank at Ohmsett.September, December, and January, they were trying to tease out the potential impacts of oil and dispersants on whale baleen.

As a marine biologist with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, Shigenaka’s job is to consider how oil spills might threaten marine life and advise the U.S. Coast Guard on this issue during a spill response.

But the last time scientists had examined how oil might affect whale baleen was in a handful of studies back in the 1980s. This research took place before the 1989 Exxon Valdez and 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spills and predated numerous advances in scientific technique, technology, and understanding.

Thanks to a recent opportunity provided by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which runs the Ohmsett facility, Shigenaka and a team of scientists, engineers, and oil spill experts have been able to revisit this question in the facility’s 2.6 million gallon saltwater tank.

The diverse team that made this study possible hails not just from NOAA but also Alaska’s North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management (Dr. Todd Sformo), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Dr. Michael Moore and Tom Lanagan), Hampden-Sydney College (Dr. Alexander Werth), and Oil Spill Response Limited (Paul Schuler). In addition, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program provided substantial support for the project, including funding and regulatory expertise, and was coordinated by Dr. Teri Rowles.

Getting a Mouthful

To understand why this group is focused on baleen and how an oil spill might affect this particular part of a whale, you first need to understand what baleen is and how a whale uses it. Similar to fingernails and hooves, baleen is composed of the protein keratin, along with a few calcium salts, giving it a tough but pliable character.

A hand holds a ruler next to oiled baleen hanging from a clamp next to a man.

Made of the flexible substance keratin, baleen plates have tangles of “fringe hair” that act as nets to strain marine life from mouthfuls of ocean water. This study examined how oil and dispersants might affect the performance of baleen. (NOAA)

Twelve species of whales, including humpback and bowhead, have hundreds of long plates of baleen hanging from the top jaw, lined up like the teeth on a comb, which they use to filter feed. A whale’s tongue rubs against its baleen plates, fraying their inner edges and creating tangles of “fringe hair” that act like nets to catch tiny sea creatures as the whale strains massive gulps of ocean water back out through the baleen plates.

Baleen does vary somewhat between species of whales. Some might have longer or shorter baleen plates, for example, depending on what the whale eats. Bowhead whales, which are Arctic plankton-eaters, can have plates up to 13 feet long.

This study was, at least in part, inspired by scientists wondering what would happen to a bowhead whale if a mouthful of water brought not just lunch but also crude oil from an ill-fated tanker traversing its Arctic waters.

Would oil pass through a whale’s hundreds of baleen plates and coat their mats of fringe hairs? Would that oil make it more difficult for the whale to push huge volumes of water through the oily baleen, causing the whale to use more energy as it tried? Does that result change whether the oil is freshly spilled, or weathered with age, or dispersed with chemicals? Would dispersant make it easier for oil to reach a whale’s gut?

Using more energy to get food would mean the whales then would need to eat even more food to make up for the energy difference, creating a tiring cycle that could tax these gargantuan marine mammals.

Testing this hypothesis has been the objective of Shigenaka’s team. While it might sound simple, almost nothing about the project has been straightforward.

Challenges as Big as a Whale

One of the first challenges was tackled by the engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They were tasked with turning the mechanical features of Ohmsett’s giant saltwater tank into, essentially, a baleen whale’s mouth.

Woods Hole fabricated a special clamp and then worked with the Ohmsett engineering staff to attach it to a corresponding mount on the mechanical bridges that move back and forth over the giant tank. The clamp gripped the sections of baleen and allowed them to be held at different angles as they moved through the water. In addition, this custom clamp had a load cell, which was connected to a computer on the bridge. As the bridge moved the clamp and baleen at different speeds and angles through the water, the team could measure change in drag on the baleen via the load cell.

With the mechanical portion set up, the Ohmsett staff released oil into the test tank on the surface of the water, and the team watched expectantly how the bridges moved the baleen through the thin oil slick. It turned out to be a pretty inefficient way to get oil on baleen. “How might a whale deal with oil on the surface of the water?” asked Shigenaka. “If it’s feeding, it might scoop up a mouthful of water and oil and run it through the baleen.” But how could they simulate that experience?

They tried using paintbrushes to apply crude oil to the baleen, but that seemed to alter the character of the baleen too much, matting down the fringe hairs. After discussions with the Ohmsett engineering staff, the research team finally settled on dipping the baleen into a pool of floating oil that was contained by a floating ring. This set-up allowed a relatively heavy amount of oil to contact baleen in the water and would help the scientists calibrate their expectations about potential impacts.

Testing the Waters

Four black plumes of dispersed oil are released underwater onto long plates of baleen moving behind the applicator.

After mixing chemical dispersant with oil, the research team released plumes of it underwater in Ohmsett’s test tank as baleen samples moved through the water behind the applicator. Researchers also tested the effects of dispersant alone on baleen function. (NOAA)

In all, Shigenaka and his teammates ran 127 different trials across this experiment. They measured the drag values for baleen in a variety of combinations: through saltwater alone, with fresh oil, with weathered oil, with dispersed oil (pre-mixed and released underwater through a custom array designed and built by Ohmsett staff), and with chemical dispersant alone. They tested during temperate weather as well as lower temperature conditions, which clearly thickened the consistency of the oil. They conducted the tests using baleen from three different species of whales: bowhead, humpback, and right whale.

Following all the required regulations and with the proper permits, the bowhead baleen was donated by subsistence whalers from Barrow, Alaska. The baleen from other species came from whales that had stranded on beaches from locations outside of Alaska.

In addition to testing the potential changes in drag on the baleen, the team of researchers used an electric razor to shave off baleen fringe hairs as samples for chemical analysis to determine whether the oil or dispersant had any effects on baleen at the molecular level. They also determined how much oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant were retained on the baleen fringe hairs after the trials.

At this point, the team is analyzing the data from the experimental trials and plans to submit the results for publication in a scientific journal. NOAA is also beginning to create a guidance document on oil and cetaceans (whales and dolphins), which will incorporate the conclusions of this research.

While the scientific community has learned a lot about the apparent effects of oil on dolphins in the wake of the 2010Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there is very little information on large whales. The body of research on oil’s effects on baleen from the 1980s concluded that there were few and transient effects, but whether that conclusion holds up today remains to be seen.

“This is another piece of the puzzle,” said Shigenaka. “If we can distill response-relevant guidance that helps to mediate spill impacts to whales, then we will have been successful.”

Work was conducted under NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Permits 17350 and 18786.

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Although several countries have protections for sharks and rays in place, many species travel great distances, often crossing national boundaries. Their migratory routes are determined by nature, not by the borders we’ve drawn. International cooperation is vital to ensuring the survival of these exceptionally vulnerable migratory species. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – a global wildlife treaty with 120 Parties — is uniquely suited to facilitate such action.

TAKE ACTION

In November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador, CMS Parties (member countries) from all over the world debated and decided on an unprecedented number of proposals that could greatly improve the outlook for 21 species of imperiled sharks and rays. Project AWARE was there to represent the voice of the dive community and to work with partner NGOs to urge the CMS Parties to commit to regional protections for the proposed shark and ray species. Such actions bring responsibilities for member countries to work nationally and regionally to safeguard listed species and ensure the health of their habitats throughout migratory pathways.

 Project AWARE CMS campaign #SharksWithoutBorders

Send a letter – Our letter campaign direct to delegates is now closed. Thank you to everyone involved. 28,804 letters were delivered to decision-makers urging them to support the shark and ray proposals.

Thunderclap – On 4th November, 632 people with a social media reach of almost 550k sent a loud unified message #SharksWithoutBorders.

Your support made a difference for:

  • All five sawfishes, nine devil rays, and the reef manta – proposed for CMS Appendix I & II. Appendix I is reserved for migratory species that are threatened with extinction and brings an obligation for CMS Parties to strictly protect these animals, restore their habitats, and mitigate obstacles to migration.

  • Two species of hammerheads, all three threshers, and the silky shark – proposed for CMS Appendix II, which encourages regional cooperative initiatives to conserve shared populations.

  • Threats to their migration routes and habitat, including marine debris. Our trash underwater harms marine animals, entangles sharks and rays, and damages critical marine environments. Much like migratory animals, marine debris crosses political boundaries, moving from one territorial sea to the open ocean and ending up in another nation’s waters. As a multilateral environmental agreement, CMS can also address this issue, and thereby further improve the outlook for marine species.

Fact sheets on the newly listed species and how the listings might help them can be found here.

Sharks in Peril

We are emptying the ocean of sharks. Thankfully, divers are some of sharks’ closest and most influential allies. Together, we are creating a powerful, collective voice to lead global grassroots change. You’ve helped us secure a stronger EU finning ban and bring about safeguards for highly traded shark and ray species under CITES.

Sharks in Peril

TAKE ACTION

Here’s why your actions to protect sharks matter:

Nearly one out of four shark and ray species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as Threatened with extinction and ray species are found to be at higher risks than sharks. That doesn’t even include almost half of all sharks and ray species whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information.

Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in some places, like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.

They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.

Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink – with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.

Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.

Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea).  Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.

Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Yet the future of sharks hinges on holding shark fishing and trade to sustainable levels. The best way to ensure an end to finning is to require that sharks are landed with their fins still “naturally” attached. Fishing limits must be guided by science and reflect a precautionary approach while trade must be controlled and monitored. We must also invest in shark research and catch reporting, and protect vital shark habitats. We can lead change locally through innovative, results orientated action on the ground. And last, but most definitely not least, if you choose to eat seafood, refrain from a purchase unless you can be certain that it’s coming from a sustainable source.

Source: Sharks in Peril

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In the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before

Dolphin with oil on its skin swimming.

A dolphin is observed with oil on its skin on August 5, 2010, in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/Mandy Tumlin)

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Five Years Later

This is the third in a series of stories over the coming weeks looking at various topics related to the response, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment science, restoration efforts, and the future of the Gulf of Mexico.

APRIL 3, 2015 — Dolphins washing up dead in the northern Gulf of Mexico are not an uncommon phenomenon.

What has been uncommon, however, is how many moredead bottlenose dolphins have been observed in coastal waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the five years since. In addition to these alarmingly high numbers, researchers have found that bottlenose dolphins living in those areas are in poor health, plagued by chronic lung disease and failed pregnancies.

Independent and government scientists have undertaken a number of studies to understand how this oil spill may have affected dolphins, observed swimming through oil and with oil on their skin, living in waters along the Gulf Coast. These ongoing efforts have included examining and analyzing dead dolphins stranded on beaches, using photography to monitor living populations, and performing comprehensive health examinations on live dolphins in areas both affected and unaffected byDeepwater Horizon oil.

The results of these rigorous studies, which recently have been and continue to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, show that, in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in the areas hardest hit, the dolphin populations of the northern Gulf of Mexico have been in crisis.

Troubled Waters

Left, scientists taking a blood sample from one dolphin in the water and right, a team of researchers in the water photographs a dolphin’s dorsal fin against a white square.

Left, in 2011 veterinary scientists took blood samples from bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, as part of an overall health assessment. Right, the same team of researchers photographed dolphins’ dorsal fins as a means of identifying individuals and monitoring populations in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (NOAA)

Due south of New Orleans, Louisiana, and northwest of the Macondo oil well that gushed millions of barrels of oil for 87 days, lies Barataria Bay. Its boundaries are a complex tangle of inlets and islands, part of the marshy delta where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico and year-round home to a group of bottlenose dolphins.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this area was one of the most heavily oiled along the coast. Beginning the summer after the spill, record numbers of dolphins started stranding, or coming ashore, often dead, in Barataria Bay (Venn-Watson et al. 2015). One period of extremely high numbers of dolphin deaths in Barataria Bay, part of the ongoing, largest and longest-lasting dolphin die-off recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, persisted from August 2010 until December 2011.

In the summer of 2011, researchers also measured the health of dolphins living in Barataria Bay, comparing them with dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, an area untouched by the Deepwater Horizonoil spill.

Differences between the two populations were stark.

Many Barataria Bay dolphins were in very poor health, some of them significantly underweight and five times more likely to have moderate-to-severe lung disease. Notably, the dolphins of Barataria Bay also were suffering from disturbingly low levels of key stress hormones which could prevent their bodies from responding appropriately to stressful situations. (Schwacke et al. 2014)

“The magnitude of the health effects that we saw was surprising,” said NOAA scientist Dr. Lori Schwacke, who helped lead this study. “We’ve done these health assessments in a number of locations across the southeast U.S. coast and we’ve never seen animals that were in this poor of condition.”

The types of illnesses observed in live Barataria Bay dolphins, which had sufficient opportunities to inhale or ingest oil following the 2010 spill, match those found in people and other animals also exposed to oil. In addition, the levels of other pollutants, such as DDT and PCBs, which previously have been linked to adverse health effects in marine mammals, were much lower in Barataria Bay dolphins than those from the west coast of Florida.

Dead in the Water

Based on findings from the 2011 study, the outlook for dolphins living in one of the most heavily oiled areas of the Gulf was grim. Nearly 20 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins examined that year were not expected to live, and in fact, the carcass of one of them was found dead less than six months later (Schwacke et al. 2014). Scientists have continued to monitor the dolphins of Barataria Bay to document their health, survival, and success giving birth.

Left, dolphin Y12 during a health assessment in August 2011 and right, after his carcass was recovered in January 2012.

Left, August 2011: Veterinarians collect a urine sample from Y12, a 16-year-old adult male bottlenose dolphin caught near Grand Isle, LA. Y12’s health evaluation determined that he was significantly underweight, anemic, and had indications of liver and lung disease. (NOAA) Right, January 2012: The carcass of Y12 was recovered on Grand Isle Beach. The visible ribs, prominent vertebral processes and depressions along the back are signs of extreme emaciation. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

Considering these health conditions, it should come as little surprise that record high numbers of dolphins have been dying along the coasts of Louisiana (especially Barataria Bay), Alabama, and Mississippi. This ongoing, higher-than-usual marine mammal die-off, known as an unusual mortality event, has lasted over four years and claimed more than a thousand marine mammals, mostly bottlenose dolphins. For comparison, the next longest lasting Gulf die-off (in 2005–2006) ended after roughly a year and a half (Litz et al. 2014 [PDF]).

Researchers studying this exceptionally long unusual mortality event, which began in February 2010, identified within it multiple distinct groupings of dolphin deaths. All but one of them occurred after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released oil from April to July 2010, and corresponded with areas exposed heavily to the oil, particularly Barataria Bay (Venn-Watson et al. 2015).

In early 2011, the spring following the oil spill, Mississippi and Alabama saw a marked increase in dead dolphin calves, which either died late in pregnancy or soon after birth, and which would have been exposed to oil as they were developing.

The Gulf coasts of Florida and Texas, which received comparatively little oiling from the Deepwater Horizon spill, did not see the same significant annual increases in dead dolphins as the other Gulf states (Venn-Watson et al. 2015). For example, Louisiana sees an average of 20 dead whales and dolphins wash up each year, but in 2011 alone, this state recorded 163 (Litz et al. 2014 [PDF]).

The one grouping of dolphin deaths starting before the spill, from March to May 2010, took place in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain (a brackish lagoon) and western Mississippi. Researchers observed both low salinity levels in this lake and tell-tale skin lesions thought to be associated with low salinity levels on this group of dolphins. This combined evidence supports that short-term, freshwater exposure in addition to cold weather early in 2010 may have been key contributors to those dolphin deaths prior to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Legacy of a Spill?

A bottlenose dolphin swims in the shallow waters along a sandy beach with orange oil boom.

A bottlenose dolphin swims in the shallow waters along the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, near oil containment boom that was deployed on May 28, 2010. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began washing up on beaches here one month after the drilling unit exploded. (U.S. Coast Guard)

In the past, large dolphin die-offs in the Gulf of Mexico could usually be tied to short-lived, discrete events, such as morbillivirus and marine biotoxins (resulting from harmful algal blooms). While studies are ongoing, the current evidence does not support that these past causes are responsible for the current increases in dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf since 2010 (Litz et al. 2014).

However, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—its timing, location, and nature—offers the strongest evidence for explaining why so many dolphins have been sick and dying in the Gulf since 2010. Ongoing studies are assessing disease among dolphins that have died and potential changes in dolphin health over the years since the spill.

As is the case for deep-sea corals, the full effects of this oil spill on the long-lived and slow-to-mature bottlenose dolphins and other dolphins and whales in the Gulf may not appear for years. Find more information related to dolphin health in the Gulf of Mexico on NOAA’s Unusual Mortality Event andGulf Spill Restoration websites.

By Ashley Braun, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Web Editor.

Source: In the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Why PADI Divemasters Rock | Sport Diver

PADI Divemasters Rock

 They’re always there when you need them. See who’s giving a shoutout to their favorite PADI Divemaster.

Even for those who didn’t struggle, a Divemaster may have helped render your dives safer by ensuring your gear was donned correctly and buddy checks were properly conducted. For example, PADI Diver Patrick Loerbach wrote to PADI about the Divemaster who assisted him during his PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course at PADI Five Star Career Development Center Couples Resort in St. Ann, Jamaica, last summer.

“Divemaster Collin Whyte was always happy, chatty — and busy! He did such a great job of keeping us laughing that it was several dives before I came to see how organized and detailed he was in preparing the equipment, knowing the skills and experience of each diver, and making sure everyone was safe and comfortable. He was a stickler for making sure ascents and descents were done properly, and he had a knack for spotting cool things that we missed. Having Collin there always made for a better dive.”

First-Rate Boat Mates

Going on a boat dive? Don’t forget to bring along your favorite PADI Divemaster.

A Divemaster is often the person on the boat who assists you in getting ready to dive, from helping you set up your gear to making sure your air is on before you take that giant stride into the water. When you were new, it was most likely a Divemaster who helped you with your predive jitters by telling you funny stories. Once underwater, he led you to the best places to see the coolest creatures, helping you forget your nerves. Or, perhaps he trailed the dive group, ready to assist if needed, while ensuring the group stayed together and everyone returned safely back to the boat. Better still, at the end of your dive, it was probably the Divemaster who eased your passage out of the water by taking your fins and any other equipment you may have needed to hand off before climbing the ladder.

Are You Hero Material?

Aside from being heroically helpful, PADI Divemasters get to do some cool stuff — like live the dive life every day. They can travel the world, seeking employment at more than 6,200 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts; leading Discover Local Diving excursions, snorkeling tours and select PADI Adventure Dives; and teaching PADI ReActivate, PADI’s new scuba-refresher program. Divemasters can also apply to become Discover Scuba Diving leaders, Underwater Photographer instructors or Emergency Oxygen Provider instructors.

If you think you’d like to become a PADI Divemaster, visit padi.com for prerequisites for the course. If you meet the requirements, you can start your Divemaster program today with the PADI Divemaster Online course, or by enrolling at your local PADI Dive Center or Resort.

Source: Why PADI Divemasters Rock | Sport Diver

Attempting to Answer One Question Over and Over Again: Where Will the Oil Go?

 Where Will the Oil Go?

A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico during an overflight of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 12, 2010. Predicting where oil like this will travel depends on variable factors including wind and currents. (NOAA)

 

Overflight surveys from airplanes or helicopters help responders find oil slicks as they move and break up across a potentially wide expanse of water. They give snapshots of where the oil is located and how it is behaving at a specific date and time, which NOAA uses to compare to our oceanographic models. (U.S. Coast Guard)

 

Two people in a helicopter over water.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Five Years Later

This is the first in a series of stories over the coming weeks looking at various topics related to the response, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment science, restoration efforts, and the future of the Gulf of Mexico.

MARCH 30, 2015 — Oil spills raise all sorts of scientific questions, andNOAA’s job is to help answer them.

We have a saying that each oil spill is unique, but there is one question we get after almost every spill: Where will the oil go? One of our primary scientific products during a spill is a trajectory forecast, which often takes the form of a map showing where the oil is likely to travel and which shorelines and other environmentally or culturally sensitive areas might be at risk.

Oil spill responders need to know this information to know which shorelines to protect with containment boom, or where to stage cleanup equipment, or which areas should be closed to fishing or boating during a spill.

To help predict the movement of oil, wedeveloped the computer model GNOME to forecast the complex interactions among currents, winds, and other physical processes affecting oil’s movement in the ocean. We update this model daily with information gathered from field observations, such as those from trained observers tasked with flying over a spill to verify its often-changing location, and new forecasts for ocean currents and winds.

Modeling a Moving Target

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in trying to answer this question was, not surprisingly, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Because of the continual release of oil—tens of thousands of barrels of oil each day—over nearly three months, we had to prepare hundreds of forecasts as more oil entered the Gulf of Mexico each day, was moved by ocean currents and winds, and was weathered, or physically, biologically, or chemically changed, by the environment and response efforts.

A typical forecast includes modeling the outlook of the oil’s spread over the next 24, 48, and 72 hours. This task began with the first trajectory our oceanographers issued early in the morning April 21, 2010 after being notified of the accident, and continued for the next 107 days in a row. (You canaccess all of the forecasts from this spill online.)

Once spilled into the marine environment, oil begins to move and spread surprisingly quickly but not necessarily in a straight line. In the open ocean, winds and currents can easily move oil 20 miles or more per day, and in the presence of strong ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, oil and other drifting materials can travel more than 100 miles per day. Closer to the coast, tidal currents also can move and spread oil across coastal waters.

While the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and wellhead were located only 50 miles offshore of Louisiana, it took several weeks for the slick to reach shore as shifting winds and meandering currents slowly moved the oil.

A Spill Playing on Loop

Over the duration of a typical spill, we’ll revise and reissue our forecast maps on a daily basis. These maps include our best prediction of where the oil might go and the regions of highest oil coverage, as well as what is known as a “confidence boundary.” This is a line encircling not just our best predictions for oil coverage but also a broader area on the map reflecting the full possible range in our forecasts [PDF].

Our oceanographers include this confidence boundary on the forecast maps to indicate that there is a chance that oil could be located anywhere inside its borders, depending on actual conditions for wind, weather, and currents.

Why is there a range of possible locations in the oil forecasts? Well, the movement of oil is very sensitive to ocean currents and wind, and predictions of oil movement rely on accurate predictions of the currents and wind at the spill site. In addition, sometimes the information we put into the model is based on an incomplete picture of a spill. Much of the time, the immense size of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the ocean surface meant that observations from specialists flying over the spill and even satellites couldn’t capture the full picture of where all the oil was each day.

Left, woman pointing and explaining maps on desk to man. Right, dark brown and red oil on ocean surface with two response ships.

Forecasters attempt to assess all the possible outcomes for a given scenario, estimate the likelihood of the different possibilities, and ultimately communicate risks to the decision makers. Left, NOAA oceanographer Amy MacFadyen explains how NOAA creates oil trajectory maps to then-Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Photo at right taken on May 27, 2010 near an ocean convergence zone shows dark brown and red emulsified oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The movement of oil is very sensitive to ocean currents and wind, and the size of this spill further complicated our attempts to model where the oil would go. (NOAA)

Our inevitably inexact knowledge of the many factors informing the trajectory model introduces a certain level of expected variation in its predictions, which is the situation with many models. Forecasters attempt to assess all the possible outcomes for a given scenario, estimate the likelihood of the different possibilities, and ultimately communicate risks to the decision makers.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we had the added complexity of a spill that spanned many different regions—from the deep Gulf of Mexico, where ocean circulation is dominated by the swift Loop Current, to the continental shelf and nearshore area where ocean circulation is influenced by freshwater flowing from the Mississippi River.  And let’s not forget that several tropical storms andhurricanes crossed the Gulf that summer [PDF].

A big concern was that if oil got into the main loop current, it could be transported to the Florida Keys, Cuba, the Bahamas, or up the eastern coast of the United States. Fortunately (for the Florida Keys) a giant eddy formed in the Gulf of Mexico in June 2010 (nicknamed Eddy Franklin after Benjamin Franklin, who did some of the early research on the Gulf Stream). This “Eddy Franklin” created a giant circular water current that kept the oil largely contained in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the NOAA forecast team likened our efforts that spring and summer to the movie Groundhog Day, in which the main character is forced to relive the same day over and over again. For our team, every day involved modeling the same oil spill again and again, but with constantly changing results.

Thinking back on that intense forecasting effort brings back memories packed with emotion—and exhaustion. But mostly, we recall with pride the important role our forecast team in Seattle played in answering the question “where will the oil go?”

By Doug Helton, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Incident Operations Coordinator.

Source: Attempting to Answer One Question Over and Over Again: Where Will the Oil Go? | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Latest NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Spike in Gulf Dolphin Deaths

Spike in Gulf of Mexico Dolphin Deaths

Group of dolphin fins at ocean surface.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that an unusually high number of dead Gulf dolphins had what are normally rare lesions on their lungs and hormone-producing adrenal glands, which are associated with exposure to oil compounds. (NOAA)

Using ultrasound to examine the lungs of live dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. “These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen in the over 13 years that I have been examining dead dolphin tissues from throughout the United States,” said Dr. Kathleen Colegrove, the study’s lead veterinary pathologist based at the University of Illinois.

MAY 20, 2015 — What has been causing the alarming increase in dead bottlenose dolphins along the northern Gulf of Mexico since theDeepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010?People taking an ultrasound of a dolphin's lungs.

Independent and government scientists have found even more evidenceconnecting these deaths to the same signs of illness found in animals exposed to petroleum products, as reported in the peer-reviewed online journalPLOS ONE.

This latest study uncovered that an unusually high number of dead Gulf dolphins had what are normally rare lesions on their lungs and hormone-producing adrenal glands.

The timing, location, and nature of the lesions support that oil compounds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint.

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, one of 22 contributing authors on the paper, and head ofNOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, which is charged with determining the causes of unusual mortality events.

“These studies have increasingly pointed to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons as being the most significant cause of the illnesses and deaths plaguing the Gulf’s dolphin population,” said Dr. Rowles.

A System out of Balance

In this study, one in every three dead dolphins examined across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had lesions affecting their adrenal glands, resulting in a serious condition known as “adrenal insufficiency.” The adrenal gland produces hormones—such as cortisol and aldosterone—that regulate metabolism, blood pressure and other bodily functions.

“Animals with adrenal insufficiency are less able to cope with additional stressors in their everyday lives,” said Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, the study’s lead author and veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, “and when those stressors occur, they are more likely to die.”

Earlier studies of Gulf dolphins in areas heavily affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill found initial signs of this illness in a 2011 health assessment of dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. NOAA scientists Dr. Rowles and Dr. Lori Schwacke spoke about the results of this health assessment in a 2013 interview:

“One rather unusual condition that we noted in many of the Barataria Bay dolphins was that they had very low levels of some hormones (specifically, cortisol) that are produced by the adrenal gland and are important for a normal stress response.

Under a stressful condition, such as being chased by a predator, the adrenal gland produces cortisol, which then triggers a number of physiological responses including an increased heart rate and increased blood sugar. This gives an animal the energy burst that it needs to respond appropriately.

In the Barataria Bay dolphins, cortisol levels were unusually low. The concern is that their adrenal glands were incapable of producing appropriate levels of cortisol, and this could ultimately lead to a number of complications and in some situations even death.”

Swimming with Pneumonia

Boats with nets to capture dolphins in the ocean.

An earlier study described health examinations on live dolphins in Barataria Bay, one of the heaviest oiled parts of the Gulf of Mexico, in 2011, which found evidence of poor health, adrenal disease, and lung disease consistent with petroleum product exposure. (NOAA)

In addition to the lesions on adrenal glands, the scientific team discovered that more than one in five dolphins that died within the Deepwater Horizon oil spill footprint had a primary bacterial pneumonia. Many of these cases were unusual in severity, and caused or contributed to death.

Ultrasounds showing a normal dolphin lung, compared to lungs with mild, moderate, and severe lung disease.

Ultrasounds showing a normal dolphin lung, compared to lungs with mild, moderate, and severe lung disease. These conditions are consistent with exposure to oil compounds and were found in bottlenose dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, one of the most heavily oiled areas during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (NOAA)

Drs. Rowles and Schwacke previously had observed significant problems in the lungs of dolphins living in Barataria Bay. Again, in 2013, they had noted, “In some of the animals, the lung disease was so severe that we considered it life-threatening for that individual.”

In other mammals, exposure to petroleum-based polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs, through inhalation or aspiration of oil products can lead to injured lungs and altered immune function, both of which can increase an animal’s susceptibility to primary bacterial pneumonia.

Dolphins are particularly susceptible to inhalation effects due to their large lungs, deep breaths, and extended breath hold times.

Learn more about NOAA research documenting the impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and find more stories reflecting on the five years since this oil spill.

Source: Latest NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Spike in Gulf Dolphin Deaths | response.restoration.noaa.gov

What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

Floating rafts of sargassum, a large brown seaweed, can stretch for miles across the ocean.

Floating bits of brown seaweed at ocean surface
                                                            (Credit: Sean Nash/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, is perched calmly among the floating islands of large brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Casually, it nibbles on the leaf-like blades of the seaweed, startling a nearby crab. Open ocean stretches for miles around these large free-floating seaweed mats where myriad creatures make their home.

Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird?

Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the yellow-brown sargassum with its tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, keeping everything afloat.

Home Sweet Sargassum

This little turtle isn’t alone in seeking safety and food in these buoyant mazes of seaweed. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than a dynamic stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America named for this seaweed: the Sargasso Sea. Sargassum is also an important part of the Gulf of Mexico, which contains the second most productive sargassum ecosystem in the world.

Some shrimp, crabs, and fish are specially suited to life in sargassum. Certain species of eel, fish, and shark spawn there. Each year, humpback whales, tuna, and seabirds migrate across these fruitful waters, taking advantage of the gathering of life that occurs where ocean currents converge.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with healthy sargassum seaweed habitat supporting marine life.

The Wide and Oily Sargasso Sea

However, an abundance of marine life isn’t the only other thing that can accumulate with these large patches of sargassum. Spilled oil, carried by currents, can also end up swirling among the seaweed.

If an oil spill made its way somewhere like the Sargasso Sea, a young sea turtle would encounter a much different scene. As the ocean currents brought the spill into contact with sargassum, oil would coat those same snarled branches and bladders of the seaweed. The turtles and other marine life living within and near the oiled sargassum would come into contact with the oil too, as they dove, swam, and rested among the floating mats.

That oil can be inhaled as vapors, be swallowed or consumed with food, and foul feathers, skin, scales, shell, and fur, which in turn smothers, suffocates, or strips the animal of its ability to stay insulated. The effects can be toxic and deadly.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with potential impacts of oil on sargassum seaweed habitat and marine life.

While sea turtles, for example, as cold-blooded reptiles, may enjoy the relatively warmer waters of sargassum islands, a hot sun beating down on an oiled ocean surface can raise water temperatures to extreme levels. What starts as soothing can soon become stressful.

Depending on how much oil arrived, the sargassum would grow less, or not at all, or even die. These floating seaweed oases begin shrinking. Where will young sea turtles take cover as they cross the unforgiving open ocean?

As life in the sargassum starts to perish, it may drop to the ocean bottom, potentially bringing oil and the toxic effects with it. Microbes in the water may munch on the oil and decompose the dead marine life, but this can lead to ocean oxygen dropping to critical levels and causing further harm in the area.

From Pollution to Protection

Young sea turtles swims through floating seaweed mats.

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service havedesignated sargassum as a critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Sargassum has also been designated as Essential Fish Habitat by Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service since it also provides nursery habitat for many important fishery species (e.g., dolphinfish, triggerfishes, tripletail, billfishes, tunas, and amberjacks) and for ecologically important forage fish species (e.g., butterfishes and flyingfishes).

Sargassum and its inhabitants are particularly vulnerable to threats such as oil spills and marine debris due to the fact that ocean currents naturally tend to concentrate all of these things together in the same places. In turn, this concentrating effect can lead to marine life being exposed to oil and other pollutants for more extended periods of time and perhaps greater impacts.

However, protecting sargassum habitat isn’t impossible and it isn’t out of reach for most people. Some of the same things you might do to lower your impact on the planet—using less plastic, reducing your demand for oil, properly disposing of trash, discussing these issues with elected officials—can lead to fewer oil spills and less trash turning these magnificent islands of sargassum into floating islands of pollution.

And maybe protect a baby sea turtle or two along the way.

Source: What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

Source: NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet

Project Aware

Just like climbers and campers have an ethic or code to live by – so do scuba divers. Project AWARE first launched its environmental ethic more than two decades ago, which has helped guide millions of scuba divers on ways to do no harm and protect the underwater world.

Today, you can download and share the shiny, new10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet atprojectaware.org and stay tuned to upcoming issues of Sport Diver where we’ll explore these tips in more depth. Thank you for doing your part to protect the ocean and take these tips to heart each time you dive.

 

Divers share a deep connection with the ocean. You can make a difference for ocean protection every time you dive, travel and more.

1. Be a Buoyancy Expert
2. Be a Role Model
3. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles
4. Protect Underwater Life
5. Become a Debris Activist
6. Make Responsible Seafood Choices
7. Take Action
8. Be an Eco-tourist
9. Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
10. Give Back

Source: 10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet | Sport Diver

Gear / How to Maintain Your Snorkel / Dive Mask

Gear Basic – Mask Maintenance

Critical scuba diving gear requires annual inspection and service by a qualified technician, but even dive masks — your window to the underwater world — need some special TLC. Here’s our guide to keeping your mask in tiptop shape in 5 easy steps.

Predive
1. If you haven’t replaced your mask strap with a stretchy fabric one, stretch out the strap to look for fine cracks. If you do find any, immediately replace the strap.
2. Examine the silicone of your mask skirt. The most common failure area on a mask is the feather-edged seal on the skirt. This can become imperfect or irregular in shape with time and heavy use, and that irregularity can create leaks.
3. Check all the buckles, which can crack, split or become clogged with debris that can interfere with how they function. Then check the frame of your mask for cracking, chips or other obvious signs of wear, especially in the areas immediately adjacent to the glass lens.

Postdive
1. To avoid mildew growth, rinse your mask in warm, fresh water and allow it to drip dry completely before packing it away.
2. Pack the mask loosely, so nothing distorts the mask skirt. Leaving it squashed into a weird position for a long period of time will cause it to take on an unnatural shape.

Source: Gear / Masks | Sport Diver

15 Tips for Avoiding Seasickness | Sport Diver

Why do scuba divers get motion sickness? It’s because your feet are telling your brain that you’re on solid ground, but you’re really rocking and rolling on the high seas. Your brain gets confused; you get sick.

Anyone who’s ever tried to keep their cookies settled while riding on a turbulent sea knows Kermit speaks the truth: It’s not easy being green. But it’s the rare ocean traveler who’s never turned the sickly shade. Nearly 100 percent of boat passengers will experience some level of seasickness on rough waters, says the Centers for Disease Control, and some of us seem to get green around the gills 100 percent of the time, regardless of the motion of the ocean.

If you’re one of the unlucky 100 percent, you can blame your parents, as it’s likely genetic. Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon ship. Motion sickness and the many factors that affect it can be largely controlled. Here’s how:

• Look up and out. At the most basic level, seasickness is a matter of sensory mismatch. When you’re sitting on a boat that’s rolling on the water, the body, inner ear and eyes all send different signals to the brain. Your brain gets confused and you get queasy. Stop tinkering with your computer and equipment and look out on the horizon, which usually appears very stable. Your peripheral vision will see the ocean swells that you feel. The whole picture will make more sense to your brain. Likewise brace yourself at the center of the boat where the rocking and rolling is less amplified.

• Tame your tummy. Have a Coke. It contains phosphoric acid and sugars, the same ingredients you’ll find in Emetrol, an over-the-counter anti-nausea drug.

• Apply some pressure. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine has included acupuncture or acupressure on the inside of the wrist, at a spot called P6, as a way to suppress the nausea associated with motion sickness. You can find simple pressure bands like Sea-Band and Acuband at your local drug store. More sophisticated, battery-operated bands like Reliefband, which delivers an electrical pulse instead of pressure, are out there as well.

• Pop a pill. Meds like Dramamine, Bonine and even antihistamines like Benadryl can help quell motion sickness by blocking sensory-nerve transmission, which is a fancy way of saying they interrupt the flow of information from various places like the middle ear (involved in balance) to the brain. They can cause drowsiness and fuzzy thinking, however, so definitely take them for a test drive before diving on them. All the pills are about the same in effectiveness and side effects. But if one of them—Dramamine, Bonine, Marazine, etc.—seems to work better for you than the others, stick with it. The placebo effect is very strong with seasickness. And start taking the medication early: Pills are better prevention than treatment. After you feel queasy, it may be too late for pills to help, so start 12 to 24 hours before going to sea. This builds up a level of the drug in your body.

• Try wearing an anti-nausea band. Some people like “Sea Bands.” They are bracelets with dots that purportedly touch acupressure points on your wrist. They have never been proven effective, but some people swear by them.

• Wear a patch. Scopolamine, a drug that reduces the activity of nerve fibers in your inner ear, is hands down the most successful commercial seasickness medication on the market. You get a steady dose by wearing a medicated patch like the Transderm Scop patch behind your ear. Just be mindful of following directions and watching for side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision.

• Don’t try to read. Focusing your eyes on an apparently stationary target makes them even more convinced that your middle ears are wrong.

• Close your eyes. You may have to go below or find a place to stretch out and lie down, in which case you should close your eyes so they aren’t giving a no-motion message to your brain.

• Be clean and sober. Even a mild hangover can easily degenerate into seasickness, besides increasing various diving risks. Likewise, fatigue predisposes you to seasickness.

• Eat something. Opinions vary on this one, but most people feel better with a little bland food on their stomachs. Bread, bagels, pancakes, etc. are better than eggs and bacon. Coffee and orange juice are acidic and may irritate your stomach. Eat a little, not a lot.

• Relax. Anxiety contributes to seasickness. Those who are frightened by the ocean and the movement of the boat, or anxious about the diving later in the day, are more likely to become seasick.

• Watch for symptoms. Early signs include chills, headache and frequent burping. Now is the time to go on deck, or move to the lee rail if you’re already there.

• Plan ahead. All of these techniques work best if you apply them before you need them — to prevent getting motion sick in the first place. So take precautions early.

I’M SEASICK: NOW WHAT?

• If you feel the urge, let it rip. You’ll feel better almost immediately. Prolonging the inevitable only prolongs the pain.

• Don’t use a toilet. Or, God help us, a trash can. Go to the rail on the lee (downwind) side or use a bucket if one is designated. If you feel the urge coming, ask a crew member where to go. He or she will know the best place. Don’t be embarrassed; you’re not the first.

After a few hours, most people feel better. For some it takes a day or two. Almost everyone gets over seasickness within three days.

Source: 15 Tips for Avoiding Seasickness | Sport Diver

Restoring Coral Reefs | Ocean Today

Restoring Coral Reefs | Ocean Today.

Transcripción

NARRADOR:

Estos hermosos arrecifes de coral están en serios problemas. Ellos están siendo dañados o destruidos por la contaminación, las enfermedades, el cambio climático, y un gran número de encallamientos de buques.

Los corales cuerno de ciervo y cuerno de alce, se han convertido en especies amenazadas. Estos corales son los bloques de construcción de arrecifes en el Caribe y en los Cayos de la Florida.

Para abordar estos problemas, la NOAA y sus socios iniciaron un esfuerzo de restauración de arrecifes. Con el uso de técnicas innovadoras, como el cultivo de coral bajo el agua y el volver a unir piezas rotas del mismo, estos proyectos trasplantan y restauran miles de colonias de coral en sitios de arrecifes dañados.

Buzos capacitados han obtenido permisos especiales para trabajar en los arrecifes. Estos buzos transplantan nuevas piezas de coral mediante el uso de cemento o masilla epóxica. El objetivo es restaurar a los arrecifes coralinos para permitir que los habitantes naturales tengan una oportunidad de prosperar.

Los científicos han encontrado que los corales que crecen en los viveros son capaces de reproducirse en sus nuevos hogares. Esto significa que el cuerno de ciervo y el cuerno de alce, tienen una oportunidad de recuperarse. También significa que la diversidad genética se puede lograr a lo largo de los arrecifes, permitiendo ecosistemas más fuertes y resistentes en nuestro océano.

Siendo que los corales sanos son una parte vital del medio ambiente marino, la restauración de los arrecifes trae grandes beneficios a las aguas de este lugar y de todo el mundo.

Transcript

NARRATOR:

These beautiful coral reefs are in serious trouble.  They are being damaged or destroyed by pollution, disease, climate change, and a large number of ship groundings.

Staghorn and elkhorn coral have become threatened species.  These corals are the building blocks of reefs in the Caribbean and Florida Keys.

To address these issues, NOAA and its partners started a coral restoration effort.
Using innovative techniques, like underwater coral farming and reattaching broken coral pieces, these projects transplant and restore thousands of coral colonies on damaged reef sites.

Trained scuba divers are given special permission to work on the reefs.
These divers transplant the new pieces of coral by using cement or epoxy putty.
The goal is to restore the coral reef to allow the natural inhabitants a chance to thrive.

Scientists have found that the corals grown in the nurseries are able to reproduce in their new homes.  This means staghorn and elkhorn have a chance for a comeback.   It also means genetic diversity may be achieved along the reefs – allowing for stronger and more resilient ecosystems in our ocean.

Since healthy coral is a vital part of the ocean environment, restoring reefs brings great benefits to the waters here and around the world.

http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/restoringcoralreefs/embed.html

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Dive Masks, Fins and Snorkels

Sport Diver 1

As scuba divers, we’re intimately connected to our equipment, especially our most fundamental gear — masks, fins and snorkels. But do you know who was the first human to strap fins on, or why mask lens are tempered? Check out these surprising facts.

1. Be thankful for silicone mask skirts. In the early days, when masks had rubber skirts, divers sometimes surfaced with their faces tinged with a ring of black.

2. Not only do objects underwater appear 25-precent closer than they really are, but the combined effect of the mask lens and water makes them appear 34-percent larger. Now, how big was that shark?

3. Many divers know tempered glass lenses are stronger than standard glass, but they’re also safer, because if broken they crumble into tiny pieces less likely to cause injury.

4. While most divers clean the protective film off a new mask by scrubbing it with a mild abrasive, it’s possible to (carefully) burn the film off using a lighter.

5. Snorkels are ancient technology. Sponge farmers on the island of Crete may have used snorkels made out of hollow reeds as early as 3,000 B.C.

6. The earliest fin designs came from some of history’s most creative minds, including Leonardo DaVinci and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin made fins from thin wood and used them in Boston’s Charles River.

7. The first mass-produced dive fin in the U.S. came from Churchill Swim Fins, established in 1938.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Dive Masks, Fins and Snorkels – But Should | Sport Diver.

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With Lobster Poacher Caught, NOAA Fishes out Illegal Traps from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

July 11, 2014
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This is a post by Katie Wagner of the Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division.

NOAA’s Restoration Center is leading the project with the help of two contractors, Tetra Tech and Adventure Environmental, Inc. The removal effort is part of a criminal case against a commercial diver who for years used casitas to poach spiny lobsters from sanctuary waters. An organized industry, the illegal use of casitas to catch lobsters in the Florida Keys not only impacts the commercial lobster fishery but also injures seafloor habitat and marine life.Casitas—Spanish for “little houses”—do not resemble traditional spiny lobster traps made of wooden slats and frames. “Casitas look like six-inch-high coffee tables and can be made of various materials,” explains NOAA marine habitat restoration specialist Sean Meehan, who is overseeing the removal effort.

A casita made of panels and cinder blocks on the seafloor.

The legs of the casitas can be made of treated lumber, parking blocks, or cinder blocks. Their roofs often are made of corrugated tin, plastic, quarter-inch steel, cement, dumpster walls, or other panel-like structures.

Poachers place casitas on the seafloor to attract spiny lobsters to a known location, where divers can return to quite the illegal catch.

“Casitas speak to the ecology and behavior of these lobsters,” says Meehan. “Lobsters feed at night and look for places to hide during the day. They are gregarious and like to assemble in groups under these structures.” When the lobsters are grouped under these casitas, divers can poach as many as 1,500 in one day, exceeding the daily catch limit of 250.

In addition to providing an unfair advantage to the few criminal divers using this method, the illegal use of casitas can harm the seafloor environment.

 A Natural Resource Damage Assessment, led by NOAA’s Restoration Center in 2008, concluded that the casitas injured seagrass and hard bottom areas, where marine life such as corals and sponges made their home. The structures can smother corals, sea fans, sponges, and seagrass, as well as the habitat that supports spiny lobster, fish, and other bottom-dwelling creatures.

A spiny lobster in a casita on the seafloor.

Casitas are also considered marine debris and potentially can harm other habitats and organisms. When left on the ocean bottom, casitas can cause damage to a wider area when strong currents and storms move them across the seafloor, scraping across seagrass and smothering marine life.

“We know these casitas, as they are currently being built, move during storm events and also can be moved by divers to new areas,” says Meehan. However, simply removing the casitas will allow the seafloor to recover and support the many marine species in the sanctuary.

There are an estimated 1,500 casitas in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters, only a portion of which will be removed in the current effort. In this case, a judge ordered the convicted diver to sell two of his residences to cover the cost of removing hundreds of casitas from the sanctuary.

To identify the locations of the casitas, NOAA’s Hydrographic Systems and Technology Program partnered with the Restoration Center and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In a coordinated effort, the NOAA team used Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (underwater robots) to conduct side scan sonar surveys, creating a picture of the sanctuary’s seafloor. The team also had help finding casitas from a GPS device confiscated from the convicted fisherman who placed them in the sanctuary.

After the casitas have been located, divers remove them by fastening each part of a casita’s structure to a rope and pulley mechanism or an inflatable lift bag used to float the materials to the surface. Surface crews then haul them out of the water and transport them to shore where they can be recycled or disposed.

For more information about the program behind this restoration effort, visit NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program.

Katie Wagner.Katie Wagner is a communications specialist in the Assessment and Restoration Division of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Her work raises the visibility of NOAA’s effort to protect and restore coastal and marine resources following oil spills, releases of hazardous substances, and vessel groundings.

Culebra Snorkeling Advice

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      Snorkeling Advice  

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Snorkeling Gear

Snorkeling is one of the easiest, safest and most pleasant ways to explore the underwater world. Snorkel equipment is quite simple and you only need three essential pieces of gear: a mask, a snorkel, and a set of fins. The right equipment with the right fit will make your experience an event to remember.

Underwater Cameras make Snorkeling more enjoyable

Besides the essentials, there are a lot of snorkeling gear that can make your snorkel trip more fun, interesting, and comfortable. The best way to make your Culebra snorkeling trip more fun and interesting while viewing schools of tropical fish, living coral heads, sea sponges and more is to invest in an underwater camera. Take pictures of your snorkel buddies to show off at the office when you get back. Test out your artistic side by capturing photos of the beautiful sealife you encounter. And of course, let someone else get a few shots of you on your snorkel adventure.  When you return, you will be able to visit your Culebra snorkeling memories any time by pulling out these photos.

Snorkeling Exposure Protection / Skin Cover

Water absorbs heat about 800 times faster than air does, so you cool rapidly in water. Also, the snorkeling environment sometimes has a potential for scrapes, stings and burns. Exposure suits help you retain heat and provide protection against incidental skin injuries and sunburn.  Aside from re-appling sunblock with the right SPF level, wearing a rash guard for protection against bumping accidentally into the reef will help cover their skin as much as possible and increasing their comfort level while seeing the wonderful scenes under the ocean.

Get The Right Snorkeling Gear

Regardless of the type of mask such as the goggle style, oval, or panoramic; what is more important is that the mask fits your face perfectly. How to determine this? Hold the mask in front of your face and inhale a bit of air through the nose. When the mask seals against your face, that is the indication that it fits. When you feel it’s holding on to the face, remove your hand from it. When you feel that air hasn’t penetrated the mask, you can be sure that it will not be leaked with water too.

While most snorkeling locations around the world offer snorkeling gear rentals, it would far more advisable to have your own. The main reason behind this is for consistent comfort purposes – you’ll be more confident using equipment you’ve invested in and properly took care of.  This will ensure that you will be able to clearly see fish and coral in their natural habitat. The first step to a successful snorkeling experience therefore, is to buy or rent the right kind of mask, snorkel, and fins for your needs.

 

CSC  Snorkeling Gear Specials Fall - Winter 2013              mermaids5                       CSC Underwater Camera Special Fall - Winter 2013

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