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Big Data Maps World's Ocean Floor

Scientists from the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences have led the creation of the world’s first digital map of the seafloor’s geology.

It is the first time the composition of the seafloor, covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, has been mapped in 40 years; the most recent map was hand drawn in the 1970s.

Published in the latest edition of Geology, the map will help scientists better understand how our oceans have responded, and will respond, to environmental change. It also reveals the deep ocean basins to be much more complex than previously thought.

“In order to understand environmental change in the oceans we need to better understand what is preserved in the geological record in the seabed,” says lead researcher Dr. Adriana Dutkiewicz from the University of Sydney. “The deep ocean floor is a graveyard with much of it made up of the remains of microscopic sea creatures called phytoplankton, which thrive in sunlit surface waters. The composition of these remains can help decipher how oceans have responded in the past to climate change.”

A special group of phytoplankton called diatoms produce about a quarter of the oxygen we breathe and make a bigger contribution to fighting global warming than most plants on land. Their dead remains sink to the bottom of the ocean, locking away their carbon.

The new seafloor geology map demonstrates that diatom accumulations on the seafloor are nearly entirely independent of diatom blooms in surface waters in the Southern Ocean.

“This disconnect demonstrates that we understand the carbon source, but not the sink,” says co-author Professor Dietmar Muller from the University of Sydney. More research is needed to better understand this relationship.

A still shot of the world's first digital map of the seafloor's geology.

Dr. Dutkiewicz said, “Our research opens the door to future marine research voyages aimed at better understanding the workings and history of the marine carbon cycle. Australia’s new research vessel Investigator is ideally placed to further investigate the impact of environmental change on diatom productivity. We urgently need to understand how the ocean responds to climate change.”

Some of the most significant changes to the seafloor map are in the oceans surrounding Australia.

“The old map suggests much of the Southern Ocean around Australia is mainly covered by clay blown off the continent, whereas our map shows this area is actually a complex patchwork of microfossil remains,” said Dr. Dutkiewicz. “Life in the Southern Ocean is much richer than previously thought.”

Dr. Dutkiewicz and colleagues analyzed and categorized around 15,000 seafloor samples – taken over half a century on research cruise ships to generate the data for the map. She teamed with the National ICT Australia (NICTA) big data experts to find the best way to use algorithms to turn this multitude of point observations into a continuous digital map.

“Recent images of Pluto’s icy plains are spectacular, but the process of unveiling the hidden geological secrets of the abyssal plains of our own planet was equally full of surprises!” co-author Dr. Simon O’Callaghan from NICTA said.

This research is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.

The digital data and interactive map are freely available as open access resources.

Global Marine Systems - First Cohort of Dual-Skilled Cadets Graduate With Flying Colors

After three years of studying sponsored by Global Marine, including spending nine months aboard various vessels in the company fleet, Joss, Marcus, Ron and William qualified as Electrical Technical Officers (ETO) this summer.

Since then the four ETOs have spent recent weeks within the training school at the company’s head office in Chelmsford to gain further skills and knowledge in order to qualify as Junior Systems Technicians (JST). This will give the officers the capability to work in cable jointing as well as piloting Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) whilst at sea. The additional training has included learning practical skills in splicing, jointing and using the X-Ray Camera whilst getting to grips with a wide range of technical specifications and procedures.

This dual skilling is what sets these officers apart from other qualified cadets, enabling them to operate in both roles – ETO and JST. This has advantages all round; allowing better utilization of the workforce in the areas of greatest demand, but also giving the seafarers a greater range of skills and experience, and a platform for their future careers.

Marcus said, “I’m really excited for what the future holds, I see this as a long-term career path and I’m feeling very motivated after spending time with the trainers here in Chelmsford. Global Marine has been very good to us, supporting us throughout our apprenticeship with constant contact and now with our on-going learning. We’re all looking forward to completing this part of our training and getting back on board a vessel to really start our new roles.”

New CFO Appointed by Global Marine

Global Marine Systems Limited, the UK headquartered world leader in subsea system engineering, installation and maintenance, has appointed Richard Fraser-Smith as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He started in June 2015 and sits on the company’s board and leadership team.

Mr Fraser-Smith joins Global Marine with a wealth of relevant experience. Most recently he was European Finance Director at CH2M Hill, a US-based organisation that offers a diverse range of engineering consulting, design, project management and project delivery services. Some of the notable UK infrastructure projects to which Mr Fraser-Smith contributed during his time with CH2M included Crossrail, HS2 and Thames Tideway. Prior to that he was Regional Finance Director at Halcrow Group Limited, the company acquired by CH2M Hill in 2011.

“I’m excited about my role at Global Marine. I see it as a company which combines the knowledge that only such a vast heritage in subsea engineering can bring, with a commitment to innovation; a combination that presents significant opportunities for growth. I want to be a fresh pair of eyes; challenge the status quo in order to evolve the business.”

Originally a graduate in chemical engineering, Mr Fraser-Smith spent a year in the oil industry as a process engineer before moving into finance. He qualified as a chartered accountant with PwC in 1991 and has since taken on various roles in different industries for companies including Conoco, DuPont, PepsiCo, Walkers and Aramark.

“Richard sees himself as a front-facing business partner and a results-driven accountant, which is precisely the kind of CFO we were looking to appoint,” says Ian Douglas, CEO at Global Marine. “He clearly brings with him a wealth of corporate knowledge which, combined with his experience in operational finance and risk management, is certain to be of enormous benefit to Global Marine and assist with our plans for growth in our current key market sectors; telecoms and oil & gas.”

BSEE Approves Updated Permit for Exploration Activities in Arctic Waters Under Rigorous Safety Requirements

After extensive review and under a robust array of safety requirements, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Brian Salerno announced that Shell has received approval of one Application for Permit to Modify (APM) to conduct exploratory drilling activities into potential oil-bearing zones offshore Alaska at one of the wells at the Burger Prospect, Burger J. The company remains limited to the top section of the Burger V well.

Shell submitted an APM on August 6 to modify the Burger J Application for Permit to Drill (APD), which previously restricted Shell from drilling into oil-bearing zones since a capping stack was not on hand and deployable within 24 hours, as required by BSEE. A capping stack is a critical piece of emergency response equipment designed to shut in a well in the unlikely event of a loss of well control. The capping stack, staged on the vessel M/V Fennica, is now in the region and capable of being deployed within 24 hours.

“Activities conducted offshore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency response standards,” said Salerno. “Now that the required well control system is in place and can be deployed, Shell will be allowed to explore into oil-bearing zones for Burger J. We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship.”

Shell is still prohibited from simultaneous drilling at Burger J and V, in accordance with the approved APDs, which define limitations related to marine mammal protection consistent with requirements established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Consistent with regulatory requirements, a USFWS Letter of Authorization (LOA) issued on June 30 requires Shell to maintain a minimum spacing of 15 miles between active drill rigs during exploration activities to avoid significant effects on walruses in the region.

Under the LOA, Shell is also required to have trained wildlife observers on all drilling units and support vessels to minimize impacts to protected species. Shell must stay within explicitly outlined vessel operating speeds and report daily regarding all vessel transits. To ensure compliance with this and other conditions, BSEE safety inspectors have been present on the drilling units Noble Discoverer and Transocean Polar Pioneer 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide continuous oversight and monitoring of all approved activities. The inspectors are authorized to take immediate action to ensure compliance and safety, including cessation of all drilling activities, if necessary. BSEE experts have been engaged in thorough inspections of both drilling units and Shell’s response equipment.

The Burger Prospect is located in about 140 feet of water, 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

BSEE’s close oversight of drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea this year is consistent with its continuing efforts over the past five years to upgrade safety standards to improve the safety of offshore oil and gas development. In addition, building on the lessons learned from Shell’s 2012 drilling operations in the offshore Arctic and incorporating the recommendations of a Departmental review of those activities, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on May 11, 2015, provided conditional approval of Shell’s Exploration Plan, which established numerous additional stringent safety requirements:

All phases of an offshore Arctic program – preparations, drilling, maritime and emergency response operations – must be integrated and subject to strong operator management and government oversight, as detailed in Shell’s Integrated Operations Plan;

A shortened drilling season to allow time for open-water emergency response and relief rig operations late in the drilling season before projected ice encroachment;

Capping stack must be pre-staged and available for use within 24 hours;

A tested subsea containment system must be deployable within eight days;

The capability to drill a same season relief well;

A robust suite of measures to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals and their habitat, impacts to Native subsistence activities, and other environmental impacts; and

Drilling units and their supporting vessels must depart the Chukchi Sea at the conclusion of each exploration drilling season.

The Department has also published proposed regulations to ensure that future exploratory drilling activities on the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf are done safely and responsibly, subject to strong and proven operational standards and Shell’s Chukchi Sea operations are being held to many of standards in the proposed regulations.

The APM and decision letter can be found here.

Overfishing and Climate Change, Combined, Intensify Ocean Threats

Millions of people and billions of dollars depend on healthy oceans, but human actions create complex interactions that endanger oceans

The combination of overfishing and climate change may be putting the oceans' health, and our own wellbeing, at risk. As State of the World 2015 contributing author Katie Auth explains, protecting lives and livelihoods will require urgent and concerted action to improve the oceans' condition (www.worldwatch.org).

"Our sense of the oceans' power and omnipotence, combined with scientific ignorance, contributed to an assumption that nothing we did could ever possibly impact it," writes Auth. "Over the years, scientists and environmental leaders have worked tirelessly to demonstrate and communicate the fallacy of such arrogance."

Three billion people worldwide depend on fish as their main source of animal protein, essential micronutrients, and fatty acids. The livelihoods of millions of people in both developing and high-income countries rely on the multibillion-dollar fisheries industry, a sector that accounted for 1.5 million jobs and more than $45 billion of income in the United States alone in 2010.

"As our negative impact on the oceans has grown, so has our understanding of the myriad ways in which the health of the marine environment determines our own," writes Auth. "The combined stresses of human activities like overfishing and climate change now pose distinct and intensified threats to marine systems."

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the global share of marine stocks considered to be fished "within biologically sustainable levels" fell from 90 percent to 71 percent between 1974 and 2011. Of that 71 percent, a large majority (86 percent) of stocks are already fished to capacity. Rapid human population growth and rising incomes are increasing the demand for food fish and pushing wild fish populations to the brink.

Climate-related changes in the marine ecosystem are also affecting the oceans. Over the last 40 years, the upper 75 meters of the world's oceans have warmed by an average of more than 0.1 degrees Celsius per year. Temperate species are responding to this change and other stressors, such as pollution and fishing pressures, by moving toward the poles, possibly increasing competition with polar animals.

Further, increased carbon in the atmosphere is triggering ocean acidification. About a quarter of human-caused carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been absorbed into seawater. This changes the chemistry of the water and makes it more difficult for some marine organisms (such as oysters and corals) to form shells and skeletons. Once these populations are affected, entire food webs are threatened.

"Marine ecosystems and individual organisms that already are weakened by overfishing become less resilient and more vulnerable to disruption, especially because environmental change is occurring so rapidly," writes Auth.

Yet Auth believes that there is still hope. "Conservation efforts aimed at improving system resiliency have proven effective in addressing the nexus between fishing and climate change," she writes. Changes in fishing policies, equipment, and techniques that result in less damage to ocean-bottom habitats and that reduce bycatch also would diminish fishing stresses. Finally, revamping the global energy system away from fossil fuels would curtail the rise in ocean temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

Worldwatch's State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0.

Dr. Mark Whorton to Manage US Operations as President of Teledyne Optech, Inc.

Teledyne Optech is pleased to announce that Dr. Mark Whorton has assumed the role of President of the US organization Teledyne Optech, Inc. In this role, Dr. Whorton will oversee US operations and apply his expertise to the development of the Optech Coastal Zone Mapping and Imaging Lidar (CZMIL) and our line of digital aerial cameras.

Dr. Whorton has been serving Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) as Chief Technology Officer since October 2014 and previously as Director, Commercial Earth Imaging. He is the Principal Investigator for the Multiple User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) instrument pointing system for the International Space Station (ISS) and led the origination of Teledyneís efforts in commercial Earth imaging. Dr. Whorton earned a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and prior to joining Teledyne in 2009 he served as Chief of the Guidance, Navigation, and Mission Analysis Branch at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center where he was a subject matter expert in dynamics and control of space systems. Dr. Whorton will continue his work on MUSES as CTO at TBE while he joins Teledyne Optech.

“We are excited to have Dr. Whorton applying his leadership skills at Teledyne Optech,î said Don Carswell. ìHis expertise in passive sensors from the MUSES project will benefit the CS line of cameras developed at our New York office and the Optech CZMIL lidar/hyperspectral bathymeter developed at our Mississippi office.”

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to join Teledyne Optech and help continue the technical excellence that makes Teledyne Optech such an important part of the broader Teledyne family of companies,” said Dr. Whorton. “ We at Teledyne Optech have a talented team and unique products, which I look forward to further developing in the US marketplace.”

IMCA Publishes Revisions of Two Important Diving Guidance Documents

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has published revisions of two important diving publications – Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note (DESIGN) for Mobile/Portable Surface Supplied Systems (IMCA D 040 Rev 1) and Mobile/Portable/Daughtercraft Surface Supplied Systems (IMCA D 015 Rev 1). Both documents can be downloaded free of charge from the IMCA website, with printed copies available for purchase from the association.

“Our diving guidance documents are used throughout the world, indeed often use of them is a requirement for diving contractors responding to a tender,” explains Jane Bugler, IMCA’s Technical Director and Acting Chief Executive. “The DESIGN series of documents have long played an important role within the industry.

“In the early 1980s, in order to give some guidance to the offshore industry, IMCA’s predecessor the Association of Offshore Diving Contractors (AODC) started to produce a number of reference documents, standards and guidance notes. This process continued through the 1980s. It was clear, however, that there was still considerable confusion with some diving systems being ‘audited’ several times a year by different clients, each of whose representatives had slightly different interpretations as to what was required.

DESIGN’s long history
“AODC published document reference AODC 052 – Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note (DESIGN) – in February 1989 that sought to clarify any interpretations necessary and to identify a common standard that could be applied by all parties during an inspection. It was intended for use offshore in the UK sector of the North Sea but in the absence of other guidance it became a standard reference in many parts of the world, particularly where there were no specific national regulations.

“Subsequently AODC expanded and revised the document which was re-issued as Rev. 1 in February 1995. This more comprehensive document covered both air and saturation diving systems. It was still based on the requirements of the UK sector of the North Sea but was adopted by many clients and diving contractors world-wide. Some users, however, found it to be complex and difficult to use.

“With the increasingly international nature of the offshore diving industry, IMCA revised AODC 052 Rev. 1 in order to simplify it, clarify any anomalies which had shown up and adapt it for international use, rather than restrict it to North Sea use. It was also decided to split it into separate documents, one for surface diving (IMCA D 023 published 2000) and the other for saturation diving (IMCA D 024 published 2001).

“Subsequently documents were issued in 2006 for surface supplied mixed gas diving (IMCA D 037) and mobile/portable surface supplied diving (IMCA D 040) and in 2014 for hyperbaric reception facilities (IMCA D 053). IMCA D 024 for saturation diving systems was revised and updated to Rev. 1 in 2013 and to Rev. 2 in 2014. IMCA D 023 was revised and updated to Rev. 1 in 2014. Our newly published guidance document is an adaptation of D 023 modified to specifically cover mobile/portable surface supplied diving equipment.”

Current Version of IMCA D 040

Interior Department Praises Gulf Coast Restoration Council for Nearly $140 Million in Proposed Restoration Projects


Funds will improve the health and resiliency for the Gulf of Mexico

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell commended the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for issuing its initial list of proposed projects for meaningful and lasting natural resource restoration for Gulf Coast communities in the wake of the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

The RESTORE Council today proposed using approximately $139.6 million from the recent settlement with Transocean Deepwater, Inc. to support restoration projects in key regional watersheds. Interior’s role in these projects is primarily focused on resiliency building efforts across the Gulf Coast.

“From Texas to Florida, the RESTORE Council is committed to recovering the health and resilience of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jewell. “These important projects are focused on improving both water quality and wildlife habitat. Because of the direct connection between the environment and the economy in the Gulf region, these projects also help provide long-term economic benefits to local communities.”


The RESTORE Council was created under the 2012 Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act), which directed the Council to dedicate 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the fund it oversees. 

As a member on the Council, Interior was actively engaged in developing restoration proposals for the first draft of the Initial Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects.

Some of the projects reflect Interior’s priorities for building climate resilient habitats, which include efforts to conserve existing habitat, restore and rebuild degraded habitat, support tribal responsibilities and provide science-based information to ensure future projects are built on a solid foundation.

The projects also focus on investments in water quality improvements and hydrologic restoration across the Gulf, which will provide direct benefits to millions of migratory birds and hundreds of federally-listed, at-risk species that call the Gulf home.

Additional proposed projects include: important restoration work to plug 11 abandoned oil and gas wells, backfill more than 16 miles of abandoned oil and gas canals, establish minimum monitoring and data standards for restoration work and develop conservation planning tools to assist in the identification and evaluation of future land conservation proposals in the Gulf Coast region.

Interior also plans to partner with Council members to create a proposed $8 million Gulf Coast Conservation Corps, which would provide job skills, training and education to youth in the region. Also, under this restoration-related corps plan, $500,000 would be set aside to create a tribal youth conservation corps along the Gulf Coast.

“While the primary goal is to restore the Gulf, it is also our responsibility to restore opportunity to the people who have been most impacted by the spill,” Jewell said. “Providing job training skills can enhance people’s ability to engage in the long-term Gulf restoration effort to help families, bolster local economies, and lead to a more resilient coast.”

The Council is inviting the public to comment on the draft Initial Funded Priorities List of projects and to attend public meetings that will be held across the Gulf Coast region.

For more information on the specific projects and public meetings or to comment on the Initial Funded Priorities List, please visit www.RestoretheGulf.gov.

 

For more information on the Department of the Interior’s post-oil spill restoration work, and the Department’s approved and proposed projects, please visit www.doi.gov/DeepWaterHorizon

BMT Nigel Gee Reaches 1000th Project Milestone

BMT Nigel Gee (BMT), a subsidiary of BMT Group Ltd, and a leading independent naval architecture and marine engineering design consultancy, is celebrating its latest achievement in securing its 1000th project which will involve the delivery of detailed production engineering for a ferry machinery conversion.

John Bonafoux, Managing Director of BMT Nigel Gee comments: “Reaching our 1000th project is a massive achievement and I’m extremely proud of how far we’ve come. Our first ever project seems such a long time ago now, but I still remember it well. It was a new ferry design and both Nigel Gee and I were burning the candles at both ends, ensuring the delivery of the project and ever since then the company has gone from strength to strength.”

Operating across four principal market sectors, the naval architectural practice delivers design and engineering services for specialised vessels in the commercial, yacht, defence and offshore energy markets. With 62 live projects, BMT made an exciting start to the year with current contracts equating to a total vessel length of nearly 2600m, spreading across 13 countries, over three continents. The company also recently announced the completion of new offices in Southampton to meet this large increase in design work.

John continues: “In some respects, the company seems almost unrecognisable, particularly, when you look at the changes in technology. Armed with just a golf ball typewriter and a drawing board, we used to do all of our drawings by hand in ink – a far cry from the office we work in today. Our decision to diversify into detailed production engineering 25 years ago was certainly a key step in our development, as was our strategic move into the large yacht market. Since then we have dedicated significant effort into maintaining diversity across our portfolio. Currently, 230 BMT Nigel Gee designed vessels are in service and operating around the world.”

James Hailstones Joins ASV

ASV is delighted to announce that James Hailstones has joined the team as the company expands its reach into the Offshore Energy market.

Based in Aberdeen, James will lead industry engagement as more firms look to introduce Autonomous Surface Vehicles into their operations.

James is an electronics engineer with over 30 years experience in the offshore survey industry, operating in the oil/gas, government, communications and renewable sectors. After spending 15 years working in an offshore environment on a global basis, James moved into various managerial positions working both in the USA and UK over the last 15 years.

“The current downturn in the oil and gas market is rapidly breaking the status quo on how the industry functions. This dynamic change is a great opportunity for new technology and methodologies, such as the ones created by ASV, to gain a foothold and exploit their cost reduction potential. Working for ASV, being at the forefront of their products implementation and watching the industry change because of it is going to be a rewarding experience” commented James.

Following successful operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Irish Sea and various locations off the UK, ASV has begun expanding its C-Worker fleet of ASVs. The multi-purpose work class vehicles have the ability to integrate multiple offshore payloads for a variety of tasks including surveying and monitoring.

The newly established Aberdeen base is in addition to ASV’s existing sales offices in Houston, Texas and Portsmouth, UK.

Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans Launched

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the University of Liverpool have entered into a new strategic partnership creating the Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans (ISCO).

The new Institute is a collaborative venture that brings together marine scientists, social scientists, engineers and economists to meet the challenges of a changing ocean and a changing coastal population. It will provide the improved connectivity between experts in these different fields and through world-class research will provide the knowledge needed to deliver sustainable management of the coast and our coastal seas.

The NOC’s Kevin Horsburgh who will head up the new centre said: "The Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans will build on our already strong partnership with the University of Liverpool to turn marine science into societal benefit, particularly at the coastline and in response to our changing climate. The wider collaboration will boost the quality of our science and will also strengthen both our relationships with industry and the blue economy."

Prof. Janet Beer of the University of Liverpool and & Prof. Ed Hill of the NOC

The NOC and the University of Liverpool have collaborated successfully for many years, particularly in the areas of ocean climate and sea level rise, observations and computer modeling of complex shelf sea systems, and marine renewable energy. ISCO will develop that research base further, building wider stakeholder partnerships to become an internationally recognized centre of excellence for joined-up research with an emphasis on societal impacts.

George Wolff Professor of Oceanography and Head of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Liverpool added “One third of the world’s population lives in the coastal zone and coastal seas are vital for transportation, food and energy production, tourism and leisure. I envisage that ISCO will become an important international centre for marine research, as well as a key player in helping find solutions for many of the key challenges that our society faces.”

Professor Ian Wright, Director of Science and Technology at the NOC noted "This is another sign of the NOC working strategically with its partners, and ISCO will provide a crucial platform to stretch our research into the social and engineering aspects of coastal science that underpin the building of resilient communities living near the coast".

Public Comment Period Opens for NOAA’s Proposed Rule to Protect Marine Mammals in International Fisheries

NOAA has issued a proposed rule to protect marine mammals in international fisheries which would require U.S. trading partners to take measures to limit the incidental killing or serious injury of marine mammals due to fishing activities if they want to export seafood to the United States.

The rule, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), aims to level the playing field for American fishermen who comply with U.S. marine mammal conservation standards, and is intended to help foreign fisheries support a healthy and diverse marine ecosystem.

Under the proposed rule, nations exporting fish and fish products to the U.S. would be required to demonstrate that killing or serious injury of marine mammals incidental to their fishing activities do not occur in excess of U.S. standards.

NOAA undertakes efforts domestically and internationally to identify and promote best practices to reduce marine mammal bycatch in various gear types such as gillnets and longlines around the world. (Credit: NOAA)

"This rule proposes a system that would lead many foreign nations to improve their fishing practices to protect marine mammals," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "Those changes to current practice across the world will mark one of the most significant steps in the global conservation of marine mammals in decades, and could save substantial numbers of these vulnerable animals from injury and death, while at the same time leveling the playing field for U.S. fishermen."

To comply, nations could adopt a marine mammal conservation program consistent with the United States' program, or develop an alternative regulatory program with results comparable in effectiveness to U.S. regulatory programs for reducing marine mammal bycatch. NOAA would then evaluate each nation's program to determine whether a nation has taken sufficient action and may export seafood to the United States.

NOAA, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, will consult with the harvesting nations and, to the extent possible, engage in a capacity building program to assist with monitoring and assessing marine mammals stocks and bycatch and reduce unsustainable bycatch.

"The United States is a global leader in marine mammal conservation and sustainable fisheries practices. However, successful management and conservation of our global ocean can only be achieved through international cooperation and collaboration," said John Henderschedt, director of NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection. "Building on our success domestically, this proposed rule will serve as another venue for the U.S. to work with other countries and international partners to reduce marine mammal death and injury associated with fishing operations."

The proposed rule provides a 5-year grace period during which foreign nations will be able to gather information about the impacts of their fisheries on marine mammals and work to ensure that these impacts do not exceed U.S. standards. NOAA will consult with the harvesting nation and, to the extent possible, work with nations to build their capacity to meet the rule's standards.

NOAA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule until November 9, 2015. More information on the submission process can be found in the Federal Register notice.

Barnacles Help Track MH370 Debris

The type and size of barnacles on the Malaysian Airways MH370 flight debris could provide clues to the path it took through the Indian Ocean, according to researchers at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

The Indian Ocean contains a mixture of cold and warm waters, with different barnacle species living in each. The speculated crash site, in the South East Indian Ocean, spans a junction between the habitat of two species. One is the sub-Antarctic Lepas australis, and the other is the tropical and subtropical Lepas anatifera.

Goose barnacles, courtesy: Miguel Charcos Llorens


Professor Richard Lampitt, from the NOC, said “The crucial analysis to be done now is to determine the species of all of the barnacles on the wreckage. In addition, the size of each specimen should be noted as it is possible that the larger and older specimens will have settled when the wreckage was in a different region.”

In addition, the chemical composition of barnacles can provide clues to the path of the plane debris because the concentration and ratios of some naturally occurring trace elements will vary from place to place. Furthermore, the DNA of individual barnacles could narrow the path area even further.


All this information could help give confidence to the potential debris paths inferred by models of surface currents that are being analyzed by researchers at the NOC.


Professor Lampitt added “Judging from photographs I have seen of the plane wreckage, the size of the barnacles suggests that they may have been in the water for more than a year. I am basing this on my observations of barnacle growth on scientific research equipment that the NOC deploys and recovers from the ocean once every twelve months.”


This deployment of equipment takes place at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain sustained ocean observatory, which is five hundred miles to the Southwest of the UK, as part of the NOC’s long-term observation of this area.

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