During the month of December, the NOPP staff attended a legislative hearing by the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs on H.R. 3099. The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act of 2013 proposes that management of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper be transferred from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Concerns were raised about potential Commission management including a lack of funding for management and technical stock assessments, and failure to incorporate the impact of shrimp trawl bycatch on juvenile red snapper numbers. However, concerns were also raised about current Council management including a short fishing season (nine days in 2014), exclusion of the Alabama artificial reef from annual surveys, and the margin of error in landings data. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the demonstration sites for the NOPP-sponsored Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (M-BON) project.
The NOPP staff also attended a legislative hearing by the Subcommittee on Europe, Asia and Emerging Threats, The United States as an Arctic Nation: Opportunities in the High North. In April 2015 the U.S. will assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council for two years, led by Admiral Robert Papp (retired) of the Department of State. At this hearing, Admiral Papp presented an overview of the U.S. agenda for the chairmanship. The agenda focuses on maritime safety, security for Americans living in remote areas of the U.S. Arctic, and stewardship of resources. Admiral Papp also underscored the importance of the U.S. recognizing its role as an Arctic nation. The hearing highlighted that the Arctic is becoming more accessible as sea ice melts and the need for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations is evident to ensure sustainable use of marine resources. The committee members impressed that this is an opportunity for cooperation, not confrontation and that the US should adapt to the quickly changing geo-political environment and ecosystem. NOPP-sponsored projects in the Arctic include the Marine Arctic Ecosystem Study (MARES), taking place in the Beaufort Sea, and the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network demonstration project.
The NOPP Excellence in Partnering Award was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting by Mr. Craig McLean, NOAA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Programs & Administration. The award was presented to the project team “Development of an integrated ISFET pH sensor for high pressure applications in the deep-sea.” The project is led by Dr. Kenneth Johnson from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), with co-PIs from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Washington, and Honeywell, Inc. The “Deep-Sea Durafet pH” sensor will enable autonomous monitoring of ocean pH, especially as it relates to pH changes driven by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.