It’s National Rip Current Awareness Week, and with the start of summer, a good time to remember that Oregon’s beautiful ocean can be a dangerous place if you don’t pay attention. Check out this short Oregon Sea Grant video about rip currents:
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This clever video uses a catchy rap tune, a wise-cracking puppet and some simple, practical instructions to engage fishermen in protecting rockfish from dying of barotrauma, by reaching them how to return their excess catch to the deeps – alive.
Barotrauma results when a rockfish is caught and hauled rapidly to the surface and its internal, air-filled swim bladder expands, often causing the animal’s eyes to bulge and even pushing its stomach out of its mouth. If thrown back in the water, the inflated bladder can cause the fish to float, making it easy prey for seabirds and other hungry animals.
But if the animal can be returned to the deeps quickly, water pressure will often reverse the expansion, allowing the fish to survive. The video demonstrates a number of effective tools – home-made and commercial – for getting the fish back to the bottom quickly and with as little harm as possible.
The video, funded in part by California Sea Grant, was produced by a team including Alena Pribyl, a NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center researcher who earned her PhD. at Oregon State University while studying barotrauma.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Samples of albacore tuna caught off the West Coast of the United States show minute traces of radiation that can be traced to the Fukushima reactor disaster, according to an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The radiation levels in fish analyzed to date are far below anything that would pose a risk to humans who consume the fish, the research team emphasized. The findings are preliminary; additional fish remain to be tested.
But the findings could reveal new information about where Pacific albacore travel during their migratory lives – and how what happens in one part of the ocean can affect the food web thousands of miles away.
The team has collected and tested fish caught off the U.S. West Coast both before and after the devastating March 2011 Japanese tsunami and subsequent release of radioactive material into the ocean by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor.
“We’re still processing new fish, but so far the radiation we’re detecting is far below the level of concern for human safety,” said Delvan Neville, a graduate researcher with OSU’s Radiation Health Physics program and a co-investigator on the project.
People are constantly exposed to radiation from the natural environment, Neville pointed out. “To increase their normal annual dosage of radiation by just 1 percent, a person would have to eat more than 4,000 pounds of the highest (radiation) level albacore we’ve seen.”
Neville will present the team’s preliminary findings on Oct. 27 at the Heceta Head Coastal Conference in Florence. Richard Brodeur, the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center biologist who serves as lead investigator on the project, reported the same findings to the recent annual meeting of PICES, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization, in Japan. The researchers also plan scientific journal articles.
PHOENIX, AZ – State legal and law enforcement officials and environmental scientists from the 15 Western states will meet in Phoenix next week to explore legal and regulatory ways of limiting an invasion of non-native mussels that can clog water systems, foul power plants, harm the environment and cost billions of dollars in damage and control wherever they spread.
Their focus: On forging a uniform approach to education, inspection and regulation to encourage recreational boat inspections in the West to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
The Aug. 22-23 meeting, convened by Oregon Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Law Center (both programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and hosted by the Arizona Dept. of Fish and Game, is expected to draw representatives from the attorneys general of all 15 Western states, along with state and federal fish and wildlife officials and biologists who specialize in marine invasive species.
Zebra mussels, native to southern Russia but accidentally introduced to many other areas around the world, were first detected in Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, in the late 1980s, likely imported in the ballast-water of ocean-going ships. By clinging to the undersides of docks, boats and anchors, they rapidly spread through the Great Lakes region, the East Coast and the Southeast. Although small, the mussels grow rapidly, and can quickly colonize almost anything underwater – from boat hulls and anchors to municipal and industrial water intakes, hydroelectric systems and other facilities. The cost of managing these pests in the Great Lakes alone has been estimated at more than $500 million a year.
The related quagga mussel, another prolific breeder whose filter-feeding habits has been shown to change entire ecosystems, has followed a similar invasive path since showing up in Lake Erie in 1989, and is now found from the Great Lakes to the Northeast.
Within the last few years, isolated infestations of both species, which can survive for days to weeks out of water have begun to show up in Western recreational and irrigation waters in California and Arizona, moist likely transported on recreational boats and trailers. Efforts to control the spread by educating boaters have met with mixed success, and state-by-state differences in legal and regulatory frameworks hinder the states’ ability to require and conduct inspections.
The Phoenix meeting will look at the impacts of invasive mussels on local economies and infrastructure, the challenges to effective control, and a 100-plus-year-old federal law – the Lacey Act – which could give states a tool for approaching the problem.
Sessions include discussions of state authority to stop boats for inspection, quarantine and decontamination, what programs and laws have been successful in Western states, public attitudes about invasive species education and enforcement, and how cash-strapped states can fund such programs.
- A Regional Approach to Predicting and Managing Invasive Species Pathways – NOAA-funded collaborative project among the four West Coast Sea Grant programs.
- Zebra and Quagga Mussels – Fact sheets and distribution maps (updated daily) from the US Geological Survey
Susan Hilber Piacenza, an Oregon State University PhD candidate, has been awarded a prestigious National Marine Fisheries Service fellowship to study population dynamics of threatened and endangered sea turtles.
The fellowship, will provide $115,000 over the next three years to support Piacenza’s work on the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. The turtle, considered threatened or endangered in most US and Mexican waters, appears to be recovering in other parts of the world. “Not only is this good news for green sea turtles,” Piacenza said, “but it also represents an invaluable opportunity to study what happens to a large vertebrate population as it recovers from serious population decline.”
So far, signs of positive population growth among C. mydas colonies in Hawaii and Florida has been inferred from nesting beach surveys. What’s missing – and what Piacenza plans to study – is broader data on what happens to the animals after they hatch, and throughout their lives, and how that information fits into population estimates and trends.
The research could be useful to biologists and managers seeking to understand how populations of other threatened and endangered animals change over time, and as a population comes back from the brink. Solid, data-driven forecasting could also help scientists and the public understand how different conservation and management strategies might affect threatened animal populations.
Piacenza is working with researchers at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center Turtle Program in Miami, FL, and the Pacific Island Fisheries’ Marine Turtle Research Group in Honolulu, HI. Her PhD adviser in the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is Dr. Selina Heppell.
The award is one of five population dynamics fellowships nationwide by NOAA/NMFS this year, and the first ever to an OSU graduate student. Piacenza’s application was sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant.
The campaign is a joint effort by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Daily themes will target public awareness about severe weather hazards and encourage people to get prepared:
- Monday: Know Your Risk
- Tuesday: Make a Plan
- Wednesday: Build a Kit
- Thursday: Get a NOAA Weather Radio
- Friday: Be an example for others to follow
Full details – including downloadable posters, media PSAs and emergency preparedness kit checklists – can be found on NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation Website.
While the effort focuses on hurricanes, tornadoes and other catastrophic storms less common in the Pacific Northwest, Oregonians can still learn from the campaign, according to Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant’s coastal hazards specialist.
In this region, coastal storms generally occur from November to March – but recent trends have shown earlier dates for the first storm and later dates for the last storm of the season. And offshore buoys have measured increasingly higher waves during winter storms over the past 30 years. A result has been more impacts by storms on people and infrastructure, from homes to highways.
“Some homes on cliff-backed beaches have found themselves precariously closer to the edge,” said Corcoran. “A few have fallen into the sea. Other properties in lower areas with dune-backed beaches are experiencing larger storm waves, overtopping of shore protection structures, and an overall increase in erosion.”
Corcoran pointed out that although the Northwest is generally spared from tornadoes and hurricane-strength storms, they can happen – and the region is also prone to seismic disasters including earthquakes and tsunamis.
“The steps NOAA recommends to prepare for catastrophic storms make good sense for the types of disasters we in the Northwest face, too,” he said.
As the one-year anniversary of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami nears, Oregon Sea Grant is teaming with state and local agencies, non-governmental groups and marine scientists to prepare for the possible arrival of earthquake debris on Oregon shores.
In a conference call this week, the group heard that state and county leaders, OSU Extension and the Hatfield Marine Science Center are receiving growing numbers of questions about the debris currently floating toward US coastlines, and began charting a communication strategy to help answer those questions.
OSU oceanographer Jack Barth, an expert in ocean currents, said the debris is still months away from making West Coast landfall, although occasional buoyant items might move more quickly. In October, a Russian ship discovered a small Japanese fishing boat in the waters north of Hawaii, and it was definitively tied to the tsunami, Barth said. “It was about where we thought it should be, given the currents.”
Many questions about the debris have to do with concerns that it might be radioactive, given the the incidents at Japan’s Dai-ichi nuclear plant that followed the earthquake. Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at OSU, said the lag time between the tsunami and the nuclear incident, coupled with the vastness of the ocean, makes it unlikely that the debris will pose any radioactive risk. The material has been tossed by wind and sea for months now, Higley said, and most traces of radioactive elements will have washed into the sea. “While we may be able to detect trace amounts of radioactive material on this debris, it’s really unlikely that there will be any substantial radiation risk,” she said.
Meanwhile, Oregon Sea Grant’s marine Extension specialists on the coast have been working with multiple public and private partners, from state and local governments to conservation and fishing industry groups, to map out a communication strategy for the debris landing.
Jamie Doyle, Sea Grant Extension specialist in in Coos and Curry counties, said one concern is what happens to personal effects that survive the ocean crossing and wind up on Oregon shores, where they may be found by beachcombers.
“A lot of people lost their lives, and many people still have family members who are missing,” Doyle said. “We need to be sensitive to the possibility of finding something that may be of personal significance to someone in Japan.”
The Seattle office of the Consulate General of Japan has asked that those who find something that could be considered a personal keepsake or artifact report it to local authorities, or to the consulate in Seattle at 206-682-9107.
Patrick Corcoran, Sea Grant’s Astoria-based Coastal Hazards specialist, said Oregon’s focus thus far has been on research and “building the capacity to respond” to the arrival of the debris. Specific information will be forthcoming, he said.
- News release from OSU News and Research Communications
- NOAA’s Marine Debris Program has an in-depth Japanese Tsunami Debris FAQ page
- Oregon Sea Grant’s Coastal Hazards page
The 48-by-52-inch map, published this week by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) shows in great detail which low-lying areas around Coos Bay are greatest at risk for tsunami inundation, by either a near-shore Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake or a more distant quake that sends waves traveling across the sea.
The agency is in the process of upgrading all its coastal tsunami maps, first produced in the early 1990s, to “incorporate all the best tsunami science that is available today,” according to a DOGAMI news release announcing the new map.
The map, in a printable, high-resolution format, is available on CD for $10.
The new, more detailed maps are based on the geologic record of previous tsunamis, as well as knowledge gained from recent earthquakes in Sumatra (2004), Chile (2010) and Japan (2011). They include projected tsunami wave height time series charts and a measurement of the exposure each community has to various tsunami scenarios, including a count of the number of buildings that would be inundated under each scenario. Evacuation routes are also shown.
DOGAMI has been working with many collaborators, including Oregon Sea Grant, to get the new maps produced and in the hands of the public, planners, emergency managers, elected officials and other local decision makers. The effort is tied to NOAA’s National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which DOGAMI administers in Oregon.
The agency plans to release additional maps as soon as they are ready, with a goal of having new maps for the entire coast by the middle of next year. The next set, due for release in February, will cover the North Coast from Netarts to Rockaway Beach, including Tillamook.
The National Sea Grant Program has set Feb. 17, 2012 as the deadline for applying to the prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships, designed to give graduate students a year’s experience working on ocean and coastal policy issues in the nation’s capital.
The program, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NSGO), matches highly qualified graduate students with hosts in the legislative and executive branches of government in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship.
Applications must be made through state Sea Grant programs. Oregon Sea Grant, based at room 322 in Oregon State University’s Kerr Administration Building, will accept applications through 5 pm Pacific time on Feb. 17. Full information can be found on the National Sea Grant Website.
The fellowship, named in honor of former NOAA administrator John A. Knauss – one of the founders of the Sea Grant program – was established in 1979 to provide a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.
Former Knauss fellows from Oregon have gone on to successful careers in federal and state government, fisheries management and marine science.
To learn more about how the Knauss Fellowship program shapes participants’ lives and careers, watch this video from Alaska Sea Grant:
Oregon Sea Grant is soliciting applications for several current fellowship opportunities.
The NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship has just been posted,
two NMFS Fellowship opportunities are open,
and there are two additional NOAA opportunities.
Please visit our fellowship website for more information.
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