BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Protecting Threatened Coral Reefs

In August 2014, NOAA classified 20 species of coral as "threatened" on the endangered species list, a move urged by environmental groups including the nonprofit Center For Biological Diversity. In a news release, NOAA cited the "many new scientific papers on climate change and coral habitat, distribution and abundance" for the rule change, which falls short of the 66 coral species proposed for protection in 2012.

In 2009, Center for Biological Diversity petitioned NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list 83 species of coral for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A final decision was expected in December of 2013, but the NMFS, citing the need for further study, extended the deadline.

The NMFS previously managed two coral species: the Elkhorn and Staghorn corals, both found in the Caribbean. Of the 20 new species, five are in the Caribbean, and 15 live in the Indo-Pacific. None live in Hawaii, according to NOAA.

There are no new regulations for individuals relating to the threatened coral species, and NOAA says they will consult with Federal agencies on actions that may affect the coral, and work on recovery strategies for the newly listed corals.

"Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, providing habitat for many marine species," Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said in the release. "The final decision is a result of the most extensive rulemaking ever undertaken by NOAA. The amount of scientific information sought, obtained, and analyzed was unprecedented."


Hold Your Fire

Tempted to hold an impromptu fireworks display with those expired flares kicking around your boat? Think twice. The U.S. Coast Guard says flares fired frivolously have cost taxpayers millions. Every time a flare is sighted, according to the 7th Coast Guard District in Miami, they send out search teams. The minimum cost of those searches ranges from $61,000 to $89,000. In June, July, and August of this year, the 7th District responded to more than 60 flare sightings, searches that cost an estimated $5.3 million. Causing a false alarm is punishable by hefty fines, including reimbursing the cost of the rescue. To find out what to do with old flares, contact your county municipal waste agency, or check this article at http://www.boatus.org/findings/45/.


Preserving The Sea

In September President Obama signed a proclamation to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and designate it off limits to commercial fishing and development. The monument, now covering 490,000 square miles in the south-central Pacific, is the largest of its kind in the world. The declaration bans commercial fishing and mining in the area, but leaves the sanctuary open for recreational fishing.

Photo of sergeant major fish school in the clear waters of the Mamanuca IslandsSergeant major fish school in the clear waters of the Mamanuca Islands, near Nadi, Fiji. The sailboat in the background is the 55-foot fast sailing catamaran Unique designed by Gavin Cooke in New Zealand, a charter vessel out of Denarau, Fiji. (Photo: Tor Johnson)

The monument, created by President Bush in 2009, surrounds several, mostly uninhabited islands and atolls — home to pristine coral reefs and marine species found nowhere else in the world — to the south and west of Honolulu.


Papers, Please?

Certificate of Documentation

If you document (register) your boat with the Coast Guard, you'll be getting a new bill starting in November. Boaters with Certificates of Documentation will have to pay a $26 renewal fee every year to keep the certificate current. The Coast Guard received thousands of comments on the law during a public comment period, many calling the new fee a tax on the boating community. The Coast Guard says the fee merely reflects the cost of providing the registrations, though BoatUS has asked that the process be streamlined to reduce costs. Coast Guard documentation is required for most commercial vessels, but optional for recreational vessels. For more information on registering your boat, see "What Is USCG Documentation".


Helen More Deadly Than Hogan? Not So Fast ...

This summer, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study, which concluded that hurricanes could be made safer simply by changing their names. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Arizona found that female-named storms killed more people than male-named storms, and attributed that to sexual bias. People, they claimed, will not take the same precautions before Hurricane Helen as they would before Hurricane Hogan. "[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane's name ... from Charley to Eloise ... could nearly triple its death toll," the study said.

NOAA satellite view of Hurricane IvanPhoto: NOAA

The researchers looked at all hurricanes that have occurred since 1950, but hurricanes only started getting male names in 1979, initially only in alternate years. Since early warning systems and better forecasting have been reducing hurricane fatalities over time, it's hardly surprising that male storms looked less deadly. Scientists also criticized the fact that Sandy, a sexually ambiguous name, was rated 9 out of 11 on the "femaleness" scale, and lowering Sandy's rating to make it less female made boy storms more deadly than girl storms. All of this had some commentators concluding that confirmation bias — where researchers have a predetermined result in mind and unconsciously favor the data that support it — accounted for the findings far more than gender bias.


Build A Better Life Jacket

A $10,000 Cash Award will go to the winner of the Innovations in Life Jacket Design Competition. The BoatUS Foundation, the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA), and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) have teamed up to seek out the newest technologies and design ideas in life jackets. "Waterway users are always looking for more comfortable life jackets," says BoatUS Foundation president Chris Edmonston. "While current models save lives every day, many are still bulky and uncomfortable, leaving boaters reluctant to wear them. This competition hopes to challenge that mindset." Designers and inventors have until April 15, 2015, to submit their ideas. For details, visit www.BoatUS.org/design

Telling Very Tall Fish Tales

In April, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which regulates both commercial fishing in U.S. waters and recreational fishing outside of state waters, published their annual summary of the economic impact of fishing activities in the U.S. The report, titled "Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012," breaks down the dollars generated by commercial fishing as well as the dollars spent by recreational fishermen. Recreational fishermen spend 80 percent of the reported figure on durable goods, such as boats and tackle. But unlike past years' reports, NMFS decided to combine the 2012 commercial numbers for domestically caught and imported seafood rather than maintain these as separate measurements. Recreational fishing advocates cried foul.

American Jobs Supported By Recreational vs. Commercial Fishing

Jobs Supported By Recreational vs. Commercial Fishing ChartRecreational fishermen land just two percent of the annual total saltwater finfish catch, but the economic impact of their efforts supports far more jobs than the commercial fleet. (Source: Fisheries Economics of the United States 2011, NOAA Fisheries)

Adding in profits from the processing and selling of imported seafood as part of the total grossly overstates the size of commercial fishing in the U.S., say fishing and boating groups, and misrepresents the relative size of recreational fishing. In fact, recreational fishing contributed nearly $8 billion more to our economy than the domestic commercial fishing efforts, but you'd be hard pressed to tell by looking at the report.

Facing pressure from groups such as the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and others, the agency published a two-page addendum to the report, with tables of "corrected" data showing the difference between the totals presented in the report and the numbers without imports lumped in. The difference is dramatic. Rather than the $141-billion number trotted out in the first version, the domestic industry actually accounts for $50.5 billion in sales. The recreational industry's impact? $58.4 billion.

NMFS stresses that this report isn't used to make management decisions, but people naturally make value judgments on the size and worth of these industries based on these numbers, say recreational fishing advocates. While the Service refused to revise or reprint the report, they did add an addendum, which is available on the reports' homepage by clicking on the link in the upper right.

For the full report, see "Fisheries Economics of The U.S. 2012" on NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service website.


Building A Spaceship On The Water

The Sea Orbiter, designed by French architect Jacques Rougerie, is a floating research platform? A waterborne spaceship? A boat? Well, whatever you want to call it, Rougerie, who credits Jules Verne and Jacques Cousteau as inspirations, hopes to build the futuristic vessel, starting this year with $467,000 raised on a crowd-funding website. It will take another $52 million and change to complete the project.

If completed, the Orbiter would be powered by wind and solar energy, house 22 people conducting research above and below the surface, and have digital broadcasts to involve the public in the research. The plans call for the vessel to be built of sealium (an aluminum alloy), and extend 89 feet out of the water, for a total of 190 feet, top to bottom. In addition to crew quarters, the design boasts underwater sub garages, laboratories, and a communications center, which will feature a broadcast center and, according to a write-up in Popular Science, a pipe organ! The benefit of building crew quarters 40 feet below the surface is that divers will not need to decompress between dives, as one would when resurfacing, allowing longer and deeper research dives.


Nautilus Explores Gulf Of Mexico Depths

On a hot summer's night in July 1942, the German submarine U-166 took aim at the freighter SS Robert E. Lee in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and within an hour the vessel would join 56 others sunk off the Gulf Coast during World War II. Coming to aid the stricken vessel, a Coast Guard escort ship surprised the U-boat and claimed the only sinking of a German submarine off the U.S. Gulf Coast. Since this past July, Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the Titanic, and his team of scientists onboard the E/V Nautilus have been conducting a research expedition studying the long-term effects of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and in the process exploring and documenting these lost vessels.

Using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) equipped with HD cameras streaming footage to their website, many of these never-before-seen wrecks resting at 5,000-plus-foot depths are finally coming in from the shadows and illuminating a forgotten part of America's history. The German operation code-named "Drumbeat" was comprised of 22 U-boats hunting in the Gulf of Mexico alone, and their highly successful mission was kept secret from the American people by a U.S. government with a thinly stretched and outclassed U.S. Navy at this early stage of the war. In fact, most of the U.S. coastline was only protected by recreational schooners and powerboats pressed into service.

The video and images of these wrecks nearly a mile down show perfectly preserved vessels (manufacturers' names can even be read on pieces of equipment). They've also become a thriving home for a myriad of corals, fish, and other marine species. All of the images and videos are available on the Nautilus' website,  

 


— Published: December 2014


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