Saturday, March 30, 2013

3/30/2013 Marine Environmental Interest /Oceanography

American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies (Attention EU Visitors , possible "cookie" encounter ahead) 



 If you are a regular reader you know that we have been following the on going story of the grounding of the USS GUARDIAN in the Philippines for more than a month. You also know that this U.S.Navy Warship has been declared a constructive total loss and is being dismantled at tremendous costs on site by the U.S. Navy and contracted commercial salvers  A U.S.Navy engaged around the world with less than half the ships of the Cold War era , and particularly in the hot spot that is the China Sea near the Philippines can't afford to lose warships yet this loss hardly drew any air time or ink in the U.S.lame stream media. Adding insult to injury the ship ran aground in a Philippine established marine sanctuary doing irreparable damage to ancient coral beds. Causation of the accident was complex and is still under investigation, but one undeniable factor is that current nautical charts place the reefs 50 away from their actual location.

  In U.S. waters our few marine sanctuaries are charted by a little known uniformed naval service known as the NOAA Corps, probably the direct descendant of the Louis and Clark Expedition. This tiny service led by a uniformed commissioned officer corps of usually less than 400 men and women evolved from the "Coast Survey" that was formed after Louis and Clark returned from their expedition up the Missouri River and appeared to modeled after the expedition with uniformed commissioned officers leading expeditions and commanding vessels (and now air craft) manned in part by various civilians. The officers carry naval rank and are recruited from the ranks of physical and ocean science graduates , a number are directly in service managing and regulating our existing marine sanctuaries. While China is building up the worlds largest Navy and Coast Guard and busy bullying her neighbors into giving up coastal territories to the dragon's oil drilling ambitions, the preoccupied nations of the China seas seem to be stuck with chart data that in some cases dates back to Capt. Cook's time for managing their constantly challenged marine resources and marine sanctuaries. Navies and Coast Guards are growing from the Philippines to Japan in response to Chines aggression but it has left little room for the evolution of a naval service like our NOAA Corps. Its a shame the world ocean needs more protected and accurately located marine sanctuaries.

The NOAA Research Ship KA'IMIMOANA, Hawaiian for "Ocean Seeker", Official NOAA, Dept. of  Commerce Photo our staff editor for the Oceanography section once served on her.
What we call "Marine Sanctuaries" in U.S. waters international law refers to as "Marine Protected Areas" or "MPSs. These are special areas throughout the world set aside by national and closer inshore local governments to protect everything from submerged cultural history sites, and warship wrecks serving as war graves to extensive areas of sensitive marine environment. Under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) coastal states have the authority to establish MPS out to about 200 miles from their shore line. Establishing a viable system of MPAs in the China Seas is impossible beyond 12 miles out due to Chines aggression sending war ships and Coast Guard like vessels out as much as 900 miles from their mainland and forceably laying claim to islands to within 43 miles of other coastal nations. Not only is this behavior by China illegal and war like but seems self defeating to China's interest in the development of offshore oil in the area. Offshore oil development depends on an orderly and reliable leasing legal regime. It can't proceed at a reasonable pace if there is no agreement on sea boundaries making national leasing authorities clear. Expropriation by force doesn't impress international oil companies as a reliable legal basis for leasing authority. A well established system of MPAs really should proceed any large scale oil leasing in new areas today. Oil companies want to know about extraordinary marine environments that they need to avoid. Yet in recent conversations with NOAA Corps officers we learned that in the China Seas oceanographic research ships often turn off sensors because that paranoid and aggressive Chinese Coast Guard forces view scientific oceanographic research as a probable cover for oil exploration in "their" national sea territory. Every day that the Chinese continue in this aggressive thug like mode their Navy and Coast Guard forces get up and shoot their national self interest in the foot.

Elsewhere in the world, budget constraints slow the establishment and management of MPAs. Each MPA  requires special studies to determine what is to be protected, the boundaries of the area, threats, and management criteria. In the United States with the world's least contested offshore waters and Exclusive Economic Zone we now have 14 Marine Sanctuaries incorporated into a system of 410 MPAs. Presently about 5% of the national waters are reserved for protected use. By contrast about 27% of our national land area is reserved for protected use as national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges. Some oceanographers have estimated that about 20% to 30% of the World Ocean should be under various types of protective regimes similar to the international concept of MPAs.

 Protecting MPAs costs the adjacent coastal states money. Today national parks and monuments have concessions and various limited admissions charges that help pay the bill for preservation. Within MPAs governments will often have to allow certain uses comparable with the preservation needs such as recreational fishing and whale watching tourism, or carefully supervised diving. MPAs must be able to largely pay for the patrols, research, and sometimes structural elements needed to assure their protection.

File:Whale Watchers in Juneau.jpg
Whale Watching Boat Out Of Juneau, Alaska, Public Domain Photo from Wikipedia

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