Breaking Waves: Ocean News

03/28/2015 - 15:08
Starting in Samoa and finishing in Tahiti, the world goes dark at 8.30pm on 28 March 2015 for Earth Hour, an annual event organised by WWF. People in about 7,000 cities and towns all over the world switch off their lights to raise awareness of the need for sustainable energy use, and this year also to demand action to halt planet-harming climate change. Watch the lights go out by clicking on the image Continue reading...
03/28/2015 - 12:45
John Hargrove describes cultish attitude as he publishes a book about his experiences – ‘The way it works is you keep your mouth shut’ Continue reading...
03/28/2015 - 00:30
Loch Flemington, Highlands The bird suddenly stared upwards, as if a bird of prey were flying over, and slowly sank under the water, as if wanting to be inconspicuous Continue reading...
03/27/2015 - 16:26
(Click to enlarge) The Titan triggerfish, a voracious predator, being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse.(Credit: Enric Sala, National Geographic) British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve on Wednesday, setting aside 322,000 square miles (830,000 square kilometers) around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific for special protection. (From National Geographic / by Brian Clark Howard)– The new reserve is nearly three and a half times bigger than the landmass of the United Kingdom—larger than the state of California—and is home to a stunning array of sharks, fish, corals, and other marine life, says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who led a five-week Pristine Seas expedition to the island group in March 2012 that helped establish a scientific case for the reserve. (Explore Enric’s posts from the field.) Announced via the government’s 2015 budget, the reserve represents a bid by the U.K. to thwart the illegal fishing that threatens the species in its territorial waters.  No fishing or seafloor mining will be allowed in the reserve, except for traditional fishing around the island of Pitcairn by the local population, says Sala. The reserve’s creation is dependent on partnerships with non-governmental organizations and satellite monitoring resources, according to the budget. Those resources are already in place, says Sala. Thirty percent of the U.K.’s waters around the world are now protected, the highest percentage of any country’s waters on Earth. Although the new reserve will become the largest single marine protected area anywhere, the network of reserves created around the Pacific remote islands by the U.S. in September is bigger in total, at nearly 490,000 square miles (1,270,000 square kilometers).  (Learn about how large marine reserves are protected.) Read the full article here:  
03/27/2015 - 11:44
A languid langur, an even slower loris and a tufted titmouse drinking maple syrup from an icicle are among the pick of this week’s images from the natural world Continue reading...
03/27/2015 - 11:27
The poet laureate’s Parliament poem on pollution and climate change accompanied the launch of the Guardian’s Keep it in the ground campaign Continue reading...
03/27/2015 - 10:38
03/27/2015 - 10:34
This month, Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s President and CEO, Sherri Goodman, submitted outside witness testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, (CJS) and to the Subcommittee on Defense. In these testimonies, Goodman discussed the FY16 federal science budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Ocean Leadership recommends that the CJS Subcommittee funds NSF at $7.72 billion; NASA Earth Science at $1.95 billion; and NOAA at $6 billion to help maintain U.S. global leadership in ocean science and technology, which is critical to American agriculture, energy development, a changing Arctic, ocean exploration, and a healthy U.S. scientific workforce. Also, in order to ensure our nation can maintain naval battlespace superiority in an increasingly unstable world, Ocean Leadership recommends that the Navy 6.1 basic research line is funded at $650 million, and the 6.2 applied research line at $870 million in FY16. On March 4, 2015, Consortium for Ocean Leadership held its 2015 Public Policy Forum, Predicting and Preparing for a Changing Arctic. A record number of participants heard from scientists, policy-makers, industry, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, and government and native Alaskan leaders who provided insights about oil and gas exploration, response and readiness, national security, shipping, and fishing in the Arctic, as well as the importance of the Arctic to the people of Alaska and those who live in the Lower 48. A complete summary of the Forum will be made available in the coming weeks, as well as presentations, video and photos. In the same week as the Forum, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to evaluate opportunities for America to build on its status as an Arctic nation. Senators and witnesses at the hearing agreed that the U.S. needs to invest in icebreaker ships, weather forecasting, mapping, and modernized navigational charts for the Arctic region. Chairwoman Murkowski (R-AK) announced her and Sen. Angus King’s (I-ME) newly formed Senate Arctic Caucus and promoted it as a tool to help other lawmakers realize the potential and impact of the Arctic to their states. Both Senate and House Committees held a number of budget hearings this month in both their appropriating and authorizing committees, continuing their examination of the President’s FY16 budget request for NOAA, NSF, NASA, and the Department of Interior (DOI): House CJS appropriators first held an oversight hearing for the Department of Commerce, including NOAA and NASA. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin highlighted the need to ensure the integrity of the contracting and grants processes. Enhancing weather satellite development and mitigating coverage gaps featured as some of the Department of Commerce‘s most significant management and performance challenges. In response, House appropriators offered to assist the Department in obtaining stronger control of finances, contracts and grants. In a second hearing, Senate CJS appropriators expressed their disappointment with NOAA’s budget request given NOAA remains unprepared to address potential gaps in weather satellite coverage. However, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker indicated that in preparation to combat future weather data gaps, the Department of Commerce had requested $380 million for a “Polar Follow-On” satellite. Aside from satellite programs, NOAA’s budget request places a large emphasis on climate change issues that pertain to the ocean as well as a sizable increase for the agency’s fisheries program. In a third hearing, House CJS Appropriators praised NOAA’s work, but also expressed concerns over the agency’s request for a large amount of funds to purchase new survey vessels. Although costly, these new ships would serve as replacements for the agency’s aging fleet. NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan was also interrogated about a wide range of topics ranging from fishery data to weather satellites. Finally, NOAA Administrator Sullivan further discussed her agency’s spending priorities and mission during an oversight hearing, jointly organized by the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittees on Federal Lands, and Water, Power and Oceans. Among the many topics discussed, she expressed desire to expand the role of aquaculture in securing the nation’s seafood supply. NOAA Administrator Sullivan explained that approving NOAA’s $4.5 million budget increase would help “develop a robust and sustainable U.S. marine aquaculture industry.” She further highlighted the need to streamline regulations and increase shellfish and finfish farms in U.S. waters. NOAA also requested $2 million to develop science-based guidelines for aquaculture and increase its regulatory capacity and efficiency. Research would be emphasized on modeling areas where the industry could harm sensitive habitats and species, predicting impacts on wild fish populations, and minimizing the spread of disease. Having defended its budget request, NOAA now awaits lawmakers in the House and Senate to decide on appropriations, and ultimately, on NOAA’s ambitious Polar Follow-On satellite and climate change programs. Dr. France Córdova, NSF Director, defended the Foundation’s budget before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and during a budget hearing held by House appropriators from the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). During both hearings, Republicans were very critical of increased funding levels requested for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Science Directorate. CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) explained that his constituents’ money needed to be spent wisely, especially during a constrained fiscal environment. Republicans praised NSF’s new transparency and accountability practices, but Democrats remained suspicious about introducing the national interest test into legislation explaining that science needs to remain a merit-based process free from political review. Dr. Córdova also discussed the full implementation of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and NSF’s involvement in Arctic research. DOI Secretary Sally Jewell was also busy defending her budget request in Congress this month. Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee reviewed the Department’s FY16 budget request. Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was not pleased with the Administration’s budget request, and questioned Secretary Jewell about Arctic infrastructure, offshore oil development, and the Administration’s commitment to Alaska’s coastal communities (including the need for emergency evacuation routes and village relocation assistance). In a separate hearing, Secretary Jewell also defended her budget before the House Committee on Natural Resources. Similar to Sen. Murkowski, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) was unhappy with the DOI’s proposed budget, calling it “under-impressive.” Republicans expressed dismay over increased taxes and regulations on energy producers, while the Democratic side of the Committee criticized the DOI’s next five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan. However, Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) praised the Administration’s request to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act. DOI also proposed a competitive grant program to restore natural coastal systems to reduce flood, storm, sea-level rise risks, and will continue to invest in science and technology initiatives that develop solutions and improve our understanding of issues, such as coastal erosion and invasive species. Above all, Secretary Jewel indicated that connecting young people to the great outdoors was among one of the top priorities for her Department as 40 percent of their work force will be eligible to retire soon. In mid-March, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr., testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness for the President’s FY16 budget request. Chairman Ted Cruz (R-TX) expressed deep concern with the proposed funding increases for Earth sciences programs and highlighted NASA’s need to refocus on its core mission of human exploration of space rather than the Earth’s systems. However, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Administrator Bolden reminded the Committee that space exploration and Earth sciences work together synergistically. The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to examine the Spending Priorities and Missions of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) in the President’s FY16 Budget Proposal. Lawmakers largely focused on the President’s five-year offshore energy leasing plan, which would permit for the leasing of 317 million acres of the American coastline for oil and gas drilling. Republicans urged for more drilling and removal of rules that restrict deep-water projects on the outer continental shelf. This push to expand on drilling plans was countered by Democrats who argued for reduced oil production to limit potential oil and gas spills. In addition to the focus on federal funding by Congress this month, several noteworthy bills were introduced. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) sponsored the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015 (H.R.1029) and the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 (H.R.1030), respectively; both bills were passed by the House by floor votes mostly along party lines (H.R.1029: 236-181, H.R.1030: 241-175). The former would alter EPA Science Advisory Board membership requirements, while the latter would specifically disallow EPA from issuing regulations that use science data and information that isn’t available publically. Identical bills were introduced in the Senate (S.543 and S.544). Similarly, a bill to ensure public access to published materials concerning scientific research and development activities funded by federal science agencies (Public Access to Public Science Act, H.R.1426) was introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Consortium for Ocean Leadership, along with other science associations, expressed their concerns about H.R.1030 in a letter to the House Majority Whip. Also of importance to ocean scientists, the Ocean Acidification Research Partnership Act (H.R.1277), was introduced by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) to provide ocean acidification collaborative research grant opportunities. Also, the American Innovation Act was introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate (S.747) and by Rep. Bill Foster in the House (H.R.1398); these identical bills aim to prioritize funding for an expanded and sustained national investment in basic science research. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R.1335, Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, which would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to provide flexibility for fishery managers and stability for fishermen. The American Meteorological Society, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the Coastal States Organization, and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership held a briefing on the science, risk communication, and response to coastal flooding. Experts spoke about the causes and impacts of coastal flooding to communities, National Weather Service storm surge products, and community engagement. While the speakers admitted that coastal flooding is a huge problem, the field is growing very quickly; scientists and managers are working together to produce maps that are capable of translating complex data from sophisticated models into a user friendly product to facilitate good decision-making in citizens protecting themselves in times of hazards. Late this month, President Obama announced the nomination of key administration posts, including marine biologist Andy Read, Duke University, as Chair of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.
03/27/2015 - 10:33
The 18th Annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals Competition will be held in Ocean Springs, Mississippi from April 23 – 26, 2015 at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. The theme for the 2015 National Ocean Sciences Bowl will be “the Science of Oil in the Ocean.” This theme includes many science disciplines and encourages increased awareness and understanding of the origins of oil in the ocean; transport, breakdown, and remediation of oil in the ocean; the impact of oil on organisms, ecosystems, and humans; and policy related to oil production, spills, and restoration. Click here for the full list of the 23 winning schools from each of the regional competitions that will be moving on to the 2015 NOSB Finals Competition.