Coral Reef NOAA
 
September 20, 2014  

Newsletter


 
image of yellow CREWS station off the coast of USVI with the coast in the background
The Salt River Bay CREWS station in USVI. Photo credit: Mike Jankulak

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May 2011 - (pdf, 239 kb)

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Highlights from the Current Issue:

"Coral Reefs in Hot Water" Visualization at the American Museum of Natural History

NOAA Partners with UVSI DPNR to Maintain USVI CREWS Station

Watershed Management Project Kicks off in American Samoa

Deep-Sea Coral Research Expedition off Florida

Company Pleads Guilty to Illegal Trade in Deep-Sea Coral


"Coral Reefs in Hot Water" Visualization at the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is preparing to open a new public exhibit, entitled "Coral Reefs in Hot Water."  The exhibit consists of a visualization developed jointly by AMNH and the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory. The visualization, funded through a NOAA grant, will be displayed on computers at AMNH and will be distributed to its network of cooperating museums and outreach centers; it is also available online to the public. This new visualization introduces the concept of coral bleaching and discusses how climate change and warming oceans impact bleaching. It also focuses on elevated ocean temperatures and prolonged, accumulated thermal stress detected by NOAA satellites. The visualization uses NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s Degree Heating Weeks product to identify reef sites around the world where corals were stressed by high temperatures in 2010; it also shows reports of the resultant coral bleaching and mortality. It concludes with a message to the public about how reducing local threats can protect coral reefs in the short-term, but emphasizes that long-term coral reef protection will require substantial reductions in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to reduce climate change impacts.

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NOAA Partners with UVSI DPNR to Maintain USVI CREWS Station

During the week of May 23rd - 27th, staff from NOAA's Integrated Coral Observing Network and the University of Miami's Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies traveled to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (USVI).  There, they met with personnel from the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) for collaboration on the annual swapout of all station instrumentation and, more significantly, training on how to conduct the monthly maintenance operations for the the Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) station located within the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, on St. Croix.  Thanks to a new arrangement with the CRCP, DPNR will now be assuming responsibility to clean and maintain the station's underwater instruments and support structures throughout the year between visits by NOAA staff.  This new relationship may foster a new era of scientific collaboration as other researchers can now bring their projects to Salt River Bay and trust that their work will be supported by St. Croix's best scientific minds.

This station, whose NOAA National Weather Service designation is SRBV3, reports meteorological and oceanographic measurements in near-real time, delivering hourly updates by Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite and its data are uploaded to the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC). From NDBC the data are included in the World Meteorological Organization's Global Telecommunications System, making them available for use by weather services all over the world.  Learn more by visiting the station's field log.

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Watershed Management Project Kicks off in American Samoa

The Faga'alu Watershed Management project started on May 16th and 18th with its Watershed Education & Awareness Campaign to youth groups from two village church organizations.  The project is a collaborative effort among the different resource agencies that participate in American Samoa's Land-based Sources of Pollution (LBSP) Local Action Strategy (LAS). The goal is to work with the village community of Faga'alu to understand the issues impacting its watershed and how to better manage it through education and outreach, collaboration and partnership, and the development of a village watershed management plan.  The main groups that were targeted in the education campaign were the youths from the village church groups, additional participants included other interested members of the churches.  The total number of participants from the church groups was about 89 from ages 5 to 65 years old.

Participants in the Watershed Education & Awareness Campaign from Faga’alu, American Samoa pose with a series of posters they created
Participants in the Watershed Education & Awareness Campaign from Faga'alu. Photo credit: Fatima Sauafea-Leau, NOAA CRCP

The LBSP-LAS watershed working group has developed a process to target Faga'alu village in this project using the Participatory, Learning and Action (PLA) approach.  PLA is a bottom-up community approach that engages all sectors of a community and guarantees the sustainability of development by ensuring wider participation and capacity-building at the community level.  It aids in gathering information and sharing local knowledge using a diverse range of tools and activities. In addition, it helps to raise awareness of the environmental issues and to assist the community in developing best management approaches.  The next component of the Faga'alu project will be a PLA watershed workshop in June that will assist the village community to identify key issues impacting their watershed and resources, develop resource maps of the watershed, obtain information on the historical profile of developments within the watershed and also on past, present and future usage of the resources within the village.  The working group is also in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy staff in Palau to conduct the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) process in this watershed in July.  These events will assist in collecting information and working with the community in developing a watershed management plan for Faga'alu.

In September 2010, the LBSP LAS Watershed working group used the PLA approach to assist the community of Nu'uuli in assessing potential strategies to better manage and conserve the village watershed and the resources found in it.  The Nu'uuli project has demonstrated that collaboration among local and federal resource agencies in planning and facilitating projects, and the engagement of local community in a top-down approach to take ownership and responsibility in managing resources—as well as promoting their stewardship—is a successful one.

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Deep-Sea Coral Research Expedition off Florida

The NOAA Ship Pisces departed on May 31 to study unexplored deep-sea coral ecosystems off southeast Florida.  Over the subsequent twelve days, a multidisciplinary team of scientists and educators will survey coral habitats inside and outside the Deepwater Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern established in 2010 by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA FisheriesDaily logs will be posted by the resident Teacher-at-Sea for the mission.  The cruise, led by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, will use the Southwest Fisheries Science Center's remotely operated vehicle to conduct video and photographic transects and collect samples of deep-sea corals.  The research expedition, named "Extreme Corals 2011," is part of a three-year research effort by NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program in partnership with the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology, NOAA's Center for Coastal Ocean Science, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and NOAA's Teacher-at-Sea Program.

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Company Pleads Guilty to Illegal Trade in Deep-Sea Coral

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a company in the US Virgin Islands plead guilty in federal court to falsely labeling internationally protected black coral.  The case pertains to black coral in the form of jewelry, artistic sculptures, and 13,600 pounds of raw black coral that was shipped into the US in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The ESA is the US domestic law that implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

Black corals occur throughout the world's oceans, but are patchily distributed and generally occur in low abundance.  They are also slow growing (on the order of μm to mm per year) and long-lived (recent carbon dating estimated the age of one colony to be over 4,000 years old). Black coral is commercially harvested primarily for the jewelry trade.  To ensure that international black coral trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations, all species of black corals were listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1981.   

According to the DOJ, the aggregate financial penalty for this case of $4.59 million in fines and forfeited items would be the largest for the illegal trade in coral or non-seafood wildlife trafficking financial penalty, and the fourth largest for any US case involving the illegal trade of wildlife.  Learn more by reading the DOJ press release.

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