NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution


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NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Blog Has Moved!

We are excited to announce that NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Blog has now moved!

Check out our new and improved blogging platform at https://blog.response.restoration.noaa.gov!

Our new blog has all the features you know and love, with improved integration into our website so that all the response and restoration information you need is at your fingertips! If you’ve already subscribed to our WordPress blog with your email address, don’t worry, you’ll continue to get email notifications of new blog posts. If you haven’t yet subscribed and would like to receive notifications, you can sign up on our new blog home page.

We are excited to continue to share informative blogs, inspiring stories, and news to keep you informed about the world of oil and chemical spill response and restoration.

Continue to follow NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Blog at our new address.

Corals and Marine Debris

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Our Marine Debris Program explains the harmful effects of trash and other debris on delicate coral ecosystems for #CoralsWeek.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Corals week logo.

Coral reefs are diverse and important marine ecosystems, supporting a wide array of marine life. Not only do they provide essential structure for habitats, but corals themselves are a unique and beautiful type of animal. However, these animals are also very delicate and are under threat by a preventable problem: marine debris. Debris can damage these sensitive reef habitats, crushing or smothering the corals that make them up. Derelict fishing gear, or fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned, can be especially harmful.

Luckily, this is a completely preventable problem and we can all help to reduce these impacts! Remember your “3Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle) to minimize your contribution to marine debris. Make sure you’re responsible with your trash and when fishing, make sure none of your gear gets left behind. If you don’t know how to properly use your gear or dispose of…

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Let’s Talk Trash this Full Moon!

Check out the latest in Ocean Today’s Every Full Moon series.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our Trash Talk video series (or even if you have), head over to Ocean Today’s website to see Trash Talk featured as this full moon’s highlighted series! Trash Talk is a great way to learn a little about marine debris, or to get the conversation started about this issue. The six-part series talks about what marine debris is, where it comes from, its impacts, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic debris, and what we can do about it. There is also a video that demonstrates educational activities to help kids understand the problem and even some bonus content!

Trash Talk was originally released in June 2015 as a collaboration between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and NOAA’s Ocean Today. It can be viewed either as a full-length (about 15 minutes) mini-documentary, or as six…

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Science of Oil Spills Training: Apply for Spring 2017

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Science of Oil Spills class

October 3, 2016 —NOAA‘s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), a leader in providing scientific information in response to marine pollution, has scheduled two more Science of Oil Spills (SOS) classes:

  • Charleston, South Carolina, the week of February 13, 2017
  • Mobile, Alabama the week of March 27, 2017

OR&R will accept applications for these classes as follows:

  • The application period for the Charleston class will run through Monday, November 28, 2016. We will email applicants regarding their application status no later than Friday, December 9.
  • The application period for the Mobile class will run through Friday, January 20, 2017. We will email applicants regarding their application status no later than Friday, February 3, 2017.

SOS classes help spill responders increase their understanding of oil spill science when analyzing spills and making risk-based decisions. They are designed for new and mid-level spill responders.

The trainings cover:

  • Fate and behavior of oil spilled in the environment.
  • An introduction to oil chemistry and toxicity.
  • A review of basic spill response options for open water and shorelines.
  • Spill case studies.
  • Principles of ecological risk assessment.
  • A field trip.
  • An introduction to damage assessment techniques.
  • Determining cleanup endpoints.

To view the topics for the next SOS class, download a sample agenda [PDF, 170 KB].

Please understand that classes are not filled on a first-come, first-served basis. We try to diversify the participant composition to ensure a variety of perspectives and experiences, to enrich the workshop for the benefit of all participants. Classes are generally limited to 40 participants.

For more information, and to learn how to apply for the class, visit the SOS Classes page.


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50th Anniversary of Bodega Marine Laboratory

Aerial view of coastal bluff with buildings

Aerial view of the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Credit: Bodega Marine Laboratory

The Bodega Marine Laboratory is 50 years old and going strong along with the partnership between NOAA and the University of California (UC).

Back in 1956, undeveloped land stretched across a peninsula to Bodega Head. In 1966 the first lab opened under the supervision of UC Berkeley, by the 1980s UC Davis took the helm. Since then the laboratory has more than doubled in size and the research scope greatly expanded to include fields as diverse as organismal biology, coastal ecology, climate change effects and ocean acidification, toxicology, bio-engineering, physical oceanography, and biotechnology.

Students, faculty, and visiting scientists have studied the shoreline habitats and conducted research at the lab since its modest beginnings – expanding our understanding of marine and estuarine systems along a beautiful stretch of northern California coastline.

The lab is part of the Bodega Marine Reserve, which is part of the UC Natural Reserve System and within NOAA’s recently expanded Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Some of the research at the BML includes:

  • Marine aquaculture
  •  Toxicity studies
  • Effects of oil spill in San Francisco Bay on Pacific herring
  • Captive breeding programs to support recovery of the special status species such as white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni ) and salmon (Oncorhynchus)
  • Ocean acidification studies
  • Deployment of various types of sensors to monitor physical phenomena such as oxygen levels in sanctuary waters.

Partnerships with marine laboratories such as Bodega Marine Laboratory are critical to the NOAA mission to protect and restore coastal resources and to help us remain a strong science-based agency well connected with current scientific research, trends, and findings.

Ten Years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program: 2012

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NOAA Marine Debris Program is celebrating 10 years of protecting our nation’s marine environment.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and we will be celebrating throughout the year! As part of our celebration, we will be looking back on our accomplishments over the years (check out our timeline for a review of the past decade!). Let’s take a look back to 2012:

2012:

The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) faced some important challenges in 2012 and was busier than ever! To start, the Marine Debris Act was amended, expanding to include regional coordination and emergency response. This made the MDP responsible for coordinating with partners on a daily basis, as well as responding to severe debris events. With the added responsibility of regional coordination, the MDP upgraded its reach from six to ten coastal regions, now including the Pacific Islands, Alaska, Pacific Northwest, California, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Northeast

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Restoring Marsh Habitat by Sharing Assessment Techniques

Group of four people stand in a marsh.

Training participants examine a one meter square quadrant transect (rod at bottom) to illustrate how new metrics could be applied for a northeast assessment. (NOAA)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to environmental assessments for oil spills or hazardous waste events. We must therefore custom-tailor our technical approach for each pollution incident.

We first determine whether impacts to natural resources have occurred and whether it is appropriate to proceed with a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). We collect time-sensitive data, evaluate available research and information about the type of injury, and determine what species and habitats are likely to have been affected. If we determine that habitats, wildlife or human uses have been harmed or could experience significant impacts, we often proceed with a full damage assessment.

This type of scientific assessment is particularly challenging in a marsh environment given potential injury due to both oil persistence and toxicity. For example, a home heating oil released by the North Cape barge in 1996 caused acute injury to lobsters, clams, fish, crabs, and mussels in, and adjacent to, the marshes of southern Rhode Island. The light oil was highly toxic, but quickly dissipated, thereby causing a lot of immediate injury, but less long-term problems. By contrast, a more chronic impact was the result of persistent fuel oil released by the Barge Bouchard 120 in the salt marshes of Massachusetts in 2003. That oil saturated 100 miles of shoreline, impacting tidal marshes, mudflats, beaches, and rocky shorelines. These evolving factors are why we constantly share best practices and lessons learned among our colleagues in the northeast and nationwide.

Members of the Northeast and Spatial Data Branch of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA’s Restoration Center recently met at Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to participate in a hands-on workshop to improve our salt marsh damage assessment techniques and data compilation.

They were building on previous findings presented at a 2015 salt marsh assessment workshop in Massachusetts, that information learned there should be shared in other locales. Of note were the variety of vegetation and native invertebrates around the coastal United States that necessitate region-specific marsh field training.

Two people standing in shallow water holding a seining net.

Scientists seining salt marsh tidal channel collecting native small fish for injury determination. (NOAA)

To address the study of natural resource damages in a mid-north Atlantic salt marsh environ, this 2016 effort included the count of flora and fauna species within a 2 meter square quadrant along a designated transect (see photo) to provide a measure of diversity and species richness.  Also they used a seine, a lift net, and minnow traps to collect fish adjacent to the marsh for species identification and to measure body size and observe possible abnormalities, both external and internal.

Additionally, NOAA scientists discussed and demonstrated current best practices to perform our work regarding health and safety, sample custody, and data management.

In an actual future marsh injury assessment, the Trustees would develop a conceptual site model for guidance in testing the hypotheses, the specific study design, and the proper site and habitat injury measures.

Ken Finkelstein and Kathleen Goggin of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration contributed to this article.