For all that has been done to protect the air and water, we haven't halted the destruction of the wetlands.
President Bill Clinton
Wetlands and coastal waters, two areas rich in natural resources, have historically been under intense pressure from development, and the pressure is beginning to show. Of all species currently listed as threatened or endangered, 54 percent are found in wetlands and deepwater habitats.
Wetlands played a prominent role in the settlement of the United States. Farmers and settlers, perceiving them as a hindrance to productive land use, routinely drained, filled, or otherwise manipulated bogs, swamps, and marshes to produce dry land for agricultural use or homesites. Only recently has society begun to appreciate wetlands and their benefits, but not before half of them were converted to other uses.
Conditions and Trends
U.S. wetlands range from extensive coastal marshes and inland swamps in the Southeast to bogs and shrub swamps in the North, and from tropical wetland forests in Hawaii to permafrost wetlands in Alaska. This diversity reflects regional differences in climate, hydrology, soils, and vegetation. In coastal areas 73 percent of all wetlands are emergent herbaceous wetlands such as marsh, whereas inland, only 25 percent are marsh. The remaining inland wetlands are forested (53 percent), shrub (16 percent), and ponds (6 percent).
Wetlands provide an array of beneficial functions and values. This ecotype plays an integral part in maintaining the quality of human life and wildlife as well as the vigor of the U.S. economy. Americans also use wetlands for recreational activities such as canoeing, fishing, and bird watching.
Natural Flood Control. Wetlands store large amounts of water in organic deposits and basins, providing erosion and flood control, flow stabilization, and the recharging of underground aquifers. Effective flood control is the result of a number of factors including the interrelationship of wetlands with streamflow within a particular watershed. Recent research finds that flood peaks may be reduced by 80 percent in watersheds with a 30-percent wetland area and by 65 percent if a watershed has only 15 percent of its area in wetlands.
Natural Filtration Systems. As water flows through a wetland system, plants, animals, and sediments absorb, assimilate, or change the chemical form of many contaminants, including heavy metals, introduced into the watershed by human activities. Significant amounts of suspended sediments also are removed from the water during the seepage process, and thus wetlands serve as natural filtration systems and improve the quality of the water.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat. Wetlands provide habitats for diverse and abundant fish, wildlife, and plant species, many of which are found in the diets of humans. The ecotype produces large amounts of detritus which forms the base of a complex food web that cycles energy and nutrients within the wetland environment and exports nutrients into adjacent areas. Half of the species that inhabit wetlands are restricted to this land-cover type or choose to frequent it.
Although the rate of wetland losses has declined in recent years, conservation efforts remain essential to protect this ecotype which the nation has come to appreciate. For a discussion of wetland conservation efforts on farmlands, see Chapter 4: Conservation Farming and Forestry; and for wetland conservation on federal lands, see Chapter 5: Public Lands and Federal Facilities.
Losses by State. Since the 1780s the conterminous United States has lost 53 percent of its original wetlands acreage, while Hawaii lost 12 percent, and Alaska less than 1 percent. Ten states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Ohio) have lost 70 percent or more of their original wetland acreage, and 22 states have lost over 50 percent of their original wetlands. By the mid-1980s, the lower 48 states contained 103.3 million acres of wetlands.
Losses by Type, Mid-1950s to Mid-1970s. A net loss of 9 million acres of wetlands occurred in the conterminous United States during this period, of which 96 percent involved inland forested and emergent wetlands. Partially offsetting these losses, though not replicating the lost functions or values, was a gain in inland open water areas, primarily farm ponds. Agriculture was responsible for most inland wetlands losses. Coastal wetland losses resulted primarily from a shift to open water as the result of channelization and flooding associated with sea level rise, coastal subsidence, and construction of canals, and from conversion to other uses such as urbanization.
Losses by Type, Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, wetland losses slowed to an annual average net loss of 290,000 acres. As in earlier decades, most of these losses took place as inland wetlands were converted to nonwetlands cropland and urban areas. Similarly the area of inland open waters increased, primarily because of flooding in arid areas and pond construction, and the majority of coastal wetland losses occurred as emergent wetlands (marsh) became open salt water as a result of flooding. In contrast to earlier losses, agriculture decreased as a cause of wetland loss, from 87 percent of such losses to 54 percent. The main reason for this decline was the implementation of federal wetlands protection programs (such as the Swampbuster and Wetland Reserve programs). Urban, industrial, and residential development increased as a cause, accounting for 41 percent of losses from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.
Losses Since the Mid-1980s. Wetland losses continue to slow. From 1987 to 1990, programs to restore wetlands under the 1985 Food Security Act added 90,000 acres to the nation's wetlands inventory. In 1992 approximately 36,000 acres of farmed wetlands, prior converted wetlands, and wetlands farmed under natural conditions were enrolled in the pilot Wetlands Reserve Program for restoration under the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. Other programs to protect wetlands, like the Swampbuster provisions of the Food Security Act, have significantly aided in conserving wetlands (See Chapter 4: Conservation Farming and Forestry).
Human-Induced Conversions. Of the human-induced wetland conversions, urban development and built-up land were the main causes of wetland losses, followed by agricultural development. A decrease in rural land and increases in both population and urban and built-up land were associated with wetland loss. Proportionately however wetland loss caused by development was greater in coastal states than in inland states, while agriculture- related wetland losses were similar in both groups. Proportionate declines of forested versus nonforested wetlands were not significantly different among states.
Losses and Degradation in the 1990s. In the EPA 1992 National Water Quality Inventory, 27 states listed sources of current wetland losses, with agriculture and commercial development as the major sources followed by residential development, highway construction, impoundments, and resource extraction (mining). Another 14 states reported on causes and sources that are degrading wetland integrity, although they could not quantify the wetland area impacted by individual pollutants or sources. Sediment was the most pervasive pollutant impacting wetlands followed by nutrients, water diversions, and pesticides. The leading source of these wetland-degrading pollutants was agriculture followed closely by development, channelization, road construction, and urban runoff. At the same time, the loss of wetlands continued to decline in the 1990s because of more effective implementation of the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and swampbuster and wetlands restoration programs.
Losses in Flyways. Huge decreases in wetlands have occurred in the major flyways that form the routes of migratory waterfowl. These losses have been cited as being a major contributor to declines in waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America that depend on a variety of wetland types throughout the continent during the annual cycle of breeding, migrating, and wintering. Overall, with decreasing wetland area and associated uplands available for waterfowl during their annual cycle, populations have decreased (see Chapter 6: The Ecosystem Approach to Management).
Recognizing the need to improve federal wetlands policy, the Administration issued a comprehensive package of initiatives that included legislative recommendations and administrative actions addressing both the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and nonregulatory protection approaches. In addition an array of federal programs were underway to acquire, mitigate, protect, and restore wetlands.
Federal Policy on Wetlands
On August 24, 1993, the Administration announced a package of wetland reforms entitled Protecting America's Wetlands: A Fair, Flexible, and Effective Approach. The reform package was prepared by the Interagency Working Group on Federal Wetlands Policy convened in June 1993 to formulate a workable policy. Chaired by the White House Office on Environmental Policy, the group included the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, Office of Management and Budget, and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Justice, and Transportation. The Interagency Working Group is monitoring implementation of these reforms, which are based on the following principles:
No Net Loss Followed by Gains. The interim goal is no overall net loss of remaining U.S. wetlands, along with a long-term goal of increasing the quality and quantity of wetland resources.
Clear Regulations. Regulatory programs must be efficient, fair, flexible, and predictable and must be administered in a manner that avoids unnecessary impacts upon private property and minimizes effects that cannot be avoided, while providing effective protection of wetlands. Duplication among regulatory agencies must be avoided and the public must have a clear understanding of regulatory requirements and various agency roles.
Public-Private Efforts. Nonregulatory programs, such as advance planning; wetlands restoration, inventory, and research; and public/private participation must be encouraged to reduce the reliance of federal government on regulatory programs as the primary means to protect wetland resources and to accomplish long-term wetlands gains.
Ecosystem-Watershed Approach. The federal government will expand partnerships with state, tribal, and local governments, the private sector, and individual citizens. Federal land agencies will approach wetlands protection and restoration in an ecosystem/watershed context.
Best Available Science. Federal wetlands policy should be based upon the best scientific information available.
Coastal America: A Renewed Commitment
Coastal America, a nationally coordinated multi-agency partnership, represents a new approach to addressing complex environmental problems in a time of limited resources. The partnership provides the following benefits:
. A mechanism for leveraging resources, expertise, and authorities;
. A collaborative problem-solving focus that expedites initiatives;
. A consensus-building process that avoids conflicts;
. A philosophy that encourages cost-efficient, creative solutions; and
. An action-oriented approach that achieves results.
In its first year, 1992, the partnership initiated 24 projects in 15 states, projects valued at over $12 million, with over half the funds contributed by nonfederal partners. In 1993 the partnership initiated an additional 43 projects in 17 states, valued at $18 million. The partners have made significant nonmonetary in-kind contributions as well and have forged strong relationships that ensure project success.
Sagamore Marsh Project. A major marsh restoration project is being undertaken at the Sagamore Marsh in Massachusetts. Gradual filling of tidal channels that carried saltwater into and throughout this 400-acre marsh has degraded the system. The benefits of restoration include a gain in lost habitat, a reduction in fire hazards, mosquito control, and the possibility of public use enhancements, since the marsh is next to other state and federal lands.
Right Whale Project. The Right Whale Project is designed to mitigate human activities (principally ship strikes) on these whales while in their calving and wintering grounds, the coastal waters of northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia. Approximately a third of known mortalities of this endangered western Atlantic whale species (estimated population:320-350 off the eastern United States) are caused by human impacts. In targeting a reduction of ship strikes, this project addresses the priority one item in the implementation schedule of the National Right Whale Recovery Plan. Only one whale strike was reported in 1993.
Gulf of Mexico Fishing Reef Project. Based on the initial success of the 1992 Coastal America Galveston Bay Oyster Reef Project, where coal ash was used to build oyster reefs, coal ash products are also being used in the development of a fishing reef on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico south of Freeport, Texas. Testing results on the oyster reef habitat demonstrated that coal ash materials are strong enough to withstand the rigors of the marine environment; provide an excellent substrate for organisms such as oysters, barnacles, tube worms, and algae; and are not an environmental or public health hazard.
Following a 1993 review of Coastal America, the Administration endorsed the partnership and directed federal agencies to implement its goals and objectives.
Mapping the Nation's Wetlands
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as mandated by the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986, is mapping all wetlands in the conterminous United States. This effort must be completed by 1998. Amendments to the act require wetlands mapping of Alaska by the year 2000 and digitized wetlands maps for all of the United States by 2004. The FWS administers the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) to gather the data needed for these maps. The inventory provides information to resource managers and the public on the type, size, location, and status and trends of wetlands, essential information for managing habitats effectively and for acquiring wetlands. By the end of 1993, the NWI had produced over 38,000 detailed wetland maps covering 75 percent of the conterminous United States, 26 percent of Alaska, and all of Hawaii and the U.S. Territories. The Inventory had digitized 11,000 of its wetland maps, representing 19 percent of the conterminous United States. The annual rate of map production is 2,800 wetland maps at the scale of 1:24,000 for the conterminous United States and 60 wetland maps at the scale of 1:63,360 for Alaska.
Each year the FWS distributes 130,000 copies of NWI maps for such uses as comprehensive resource management planning, environmental impact assessments, permit reviews, facility and corridor siting, oil spill contingency plans, natural resources inventories, and wildlife surveys. The number of map users increases each year, with requests coming from individuals, private organizations, industry, consultants, developers, agencies from all levels of government, and academia. The inventory maintains three databases:
. Maps Database. This metadata database for all map and digital data describes 19 fields of information.
. Wetland Values Database. This annotated bibliography describes functions and values of wetlands that can be accessed by geographic area.
. Wetland Plant Database. This database maintains a complete accounting of all hydrophytic vegetation that occurs in wetlands within the United States.
The NWI produces comprehensive, statistically valid, detailed reports on the status and trends (such as losses and gains) of the nation's wetlands. Estimates of the current status and trends of wetlands provide information for reviewing the effectiveness of existing programs and policies, for identifying national or regional land-use problems and allocation, and for general public awareness. The FWS issued two status and trends updates in 1991:
. Wetlands Losses in the United States: 1780s to 1980s, which gives a state-by-state account of original wetland acreage and subsequent losses.
. Wetlands Status and Trends in the Conterminous United States: Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s, which describes wetland losses and gains due to land use practices and identifies losses and gains by type of wetland. The Emergency Wetlands Resources Act requires an update of this report every ten years.
Information generated from status and trends analyses helps develop federal policies on wetlands conservation.
Federal Geographic Data Committee Wetlands Subcommittee
In accordance with Circular A-16, -Coordination of Surveying, Mapping, and Related Spatial Data Activities,- issued by the Office of Management and Budget in 1990, the Federal Geographic Data Committee established a Wetlands Subcommittee. Chaired by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the subcommittee is composed of representatives from all federal agencies involved in wetlands mapping. The group is testing the feasibility of increased coordination and integration of wetlands mapping interests.
Federal Standard for Wetlands Classification. Issues of primary concern to the subcommittee are improved data collection methods to produce verifiable statistics on the status and trends of wetlands, the adoption of a federal standard for wetlands classification, and consistency in wetland trends information.
Wicomico County Study. The subcommittee is sponsoring a number of wetlands data studies. One study underway has all federal and state agencies with wetlands data for Wicomico County, Maryland, comparing the results of their independent efforts. This brings together data collected by both conventional color-infrared aerial photography (vector data) and satellite (Thematic Mapper, raster data) at various scales or resolution, gathered using several data collection methodologies, classified using different systems, and spanning a time period of almost ten years. The USGS compiled and analyzed the data using state-of-the-art Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Results of this data integration effort will be available in 1994. The Wetlands Subcommittee is considering a similar project to investigate wetlands quality within an entire watershed.
Wetlands Restoration and Acquisition
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has adopted wetland restoration as its hallmark. Since 1986 partnerships formed through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) have restored 300,000 acres of wetlands, and NAWMP enhancement actions have been taken on an additional 800,000 acres. In FY 1993 the FWS added 140,381 acres of wetlands to the National Wildlife Refuge System, which brings the wetlands acquisition average to 127,000 acres/year over the last five years.
Partners for Wildlife:
Applying Habitat Restoration in an Ecosystem Approach
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is a lead federal agency for the conservation of federal trust fish and wildlife species, consisting of migratory birds, endangered and threatened species, and anadromous fish. The majority of remaining high quality habitat for these species, as well as the greatest habitat restoration potential, occurs on private lands.
In recognition of the importance of nonfederal lands in fish and wildlife conservation matters, the FWS has been restoring wetlands and other federal trust species habitats on private lands since 1987 under voluntary cooperative agreements with landowners. Conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this habitat restoration work is one component of the FWS Partners for Wildlife initiative. FWS Private Lands Coordinators are located in every state.
In 1993 the FWS, landowners, and their partners restored over 44,703 acres of wetland, riparian, stream, and grassland habitats for federal trust species and other wildlife. To date the program has restored 17,000 sites comprising over 210,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats and involving 10,900 landowner agreements.
Forested Riparian Wetlands
The USDA Forest Service has given priority standing to the management of riparian wetlands, which include the following components:
. Watershed analysis and assessment,
. Modified riparian management practices, and
. An aggressive restoration program.
As an example the Forest Service has restored western red cedar to the riparian ecosystem of the North Fork of the St. Joe River in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, where it had been eliminated by repeated wildfires.
Circle of Flight Wetlands Restoration
Since 1991 Indian tribes in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have worked to restore 400,000 acres of tribal wetlands. Through a series of projects designed to increase and manage waterfowl populations and improve wetland habitat on their reservations, ten tribes have cooperated on what is known collectively as the Circle of Flight. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, in cooperation with the North American Wildlife Management Plan, meets with the tribes each year to plan specific restoration projects.
In 1993 the Army Corps of Engineers expended $46 million on wetlands mitigation, restoration, and protection associated with 90 federal projects. As part of levee rehabilitation necessitated by the 1993 Midwest Flood, the Corps is seeking potentially beneficial environmental opportunities for natural flood control by modifying operations and structures on existing Corps projects.
EPA Wetlands Grants
The EPA administers a number of grant programs that support the protection and restoration of wetlands.
State Wetland Protection Development Grants. The EPA initiated the State Wetland Protection Development Grant program in 1990 to support new or existing state/tribal wetland protection programs. Response has been enthusiastic with requests for funding far exceeding the amount of funds available. In 1993 funding for the program increased to $10 million, and 100 grants had been issued to 45 states, 18 tribes, and 3 territories. By the end of the 1993 grant cycle, every state had received at least one grant.
State Wetland Conservation Plans Grants. States and tribes continued to demonstrate their interest in developing State Wetland Conservation Plans (SWCP). The intent of a SWCP is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs and private sector efforts to protect, restore, enhance, and create wetlands by identifying opportunities for coordinating existing wetland programs and determining where additional authorities or programs are needed. In 1993 nine states and six tribes received grants to develop SWCPs.
Watershed Protection Approach Grants. The Watershed Protection Approach is designed to involve the EPA and state and local governments in planning water resource protection programs in a holistic, integrated manner by promoting geographically targeted decisionmaking. The EPA funded seven Watershed Protection Approach projects in 1993.
With continued development of the nation's coastal areas, increasing amounts of pollutants are being discharged into surface waters. If unchecked this can result in beach closures, shellfish bed closures, fish kills, high concentrations of toxic substances in marine organisms, and algal blooms (evidence of eutrophication) in near-coastal waters and estuaries. Oil spills and waste discharges from boats, industrial facilities, and municipal wastewater treatment plants are identifiable sources of pollution. Other activities that occur throughout a watershed, even at some distance from the sea, are not as identifiable and they include runoff from agricultural and urban areas that carry nutrients, chemical pesticides, and a myriad of other chemicals. Runoff also carries sediment from agricultural and development activities.
Pollution in coastal areas greatly impacts recreational use, human health, fish and shellfish populations, and wildlife habitat. Beach closures, fish and shellfish consumption advisories, and diminished aesthetic quality have become commonplace in many coastal areas because of unsafe levels of fecal coliform bacteria or marine debris.
The viability of three-quarters of the nation's commercial fisheries depends on clean and functioning estuaries. Pollution and physical alteration actually may render coastal habitats incapable of providing the elements necessary for many species of fish and shellfish to survive, resulting in both ecological and economic losses.
The federal agencies that monitor the nation's coastal waters and administer federal laws to protect marine resources include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Coast Guard in the Department of Transportation, and the EPA, with assistance from other agencies.
Conditions and Trends
Today over half (54 percent) of the total U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast or the Great Lakes an area representing 25.1 percent of the total U.S. land area. Populations along the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Coast have more than doubled since 1960 and that of eastern Florida has more than tripled. Between the years 1993 and 2020, the total U.S. population is projected to grow from 258 million to 326 million people. Most of that growth will be in coastal areas, especially in California, Texas, and Florida.
Half of American jobs are located in coastal areas, and a third of the nation's Gross National Product (GNP) is produced there, with the coastal GNP rising at a rate faster than total U.S. GNP. Coastal recreation and tourism are growing at impressive rates in many areas, but this growth is tempered by poor environmental quality conditions. During 1990-1993 beaches were closed or advisories issued against swimming on 2,000 occasions in those states that monitor beach quality.
Marine Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Coastal areas represent some of the nation's most sensitive ecosystems, which provide habitat for 75 percent of the total U.S. commercial landings of fish and shellfish and an even larger proportion of recreational fish and shellfish. Human activities affect marine biodiversity in direct ways through pollution and in indirect ways, such as by habitat loss and introduction of nonindigenous species. As the human population increases, the human impact on the diversity of life will increase, especially in coastal areas. Loss of organisms and entire species threaten the diversity of the nation's rich marine ecosystems. Even in those areas that show evidence of progress toward improved conditions, increasing human population and development could offset short-term improvements. The NOAA has estimated that by the year 2010 the coastal population will have grown to more than 127 million persons, an increase of almost 60 percent from the 1960 population.
In 1990 a survey of 23 shellfish-growing states, conducted by the NOAA National Ocean Service, found 17 million estuarine acres nationwide classified for shellfish harvest, with the following categories:
. Approved Waters. Of the 17 million acres, 63 percent were approved, allowing harvest at all times. This figure was down 6 percent (1.2 million acres) from 1985;
. Conditionally Approved Waters. Another 9 percent of the waters were conditionally approved for harvest when microbiological pollution criteria are met;
. Restricted Waters. Three percent of shellfish waters could be harvested if shellfish were subjected to a suitable purification process; and
. Prohibited Waters. Another 25 percent of the waters were prohibited, with harvest for human consumption not allowed. This figure was up from 19 percent in 1985.
The reduction in waters approved for shellfish harvest and the increase in prohibited waters between 1985 and 1990 were primarily the result of expanding coastal development, urban runoff, faulty septic systems, marina development, and buffer zones around sewage treatment plants.
The rate of decline in approved acreage is highest in the most productive estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi Delta Region estuaries, and Puget Sound. The coastal drainage areas affecting these estuaries already receive some of the heaviest pollution loads in the nation, a condition that is not likely to change as development continues. A third of all U.S. shellfish-growing waters are harvest-limited (the sum of shellfish waters that are classified conditionally approved, restricted, and prohibited). This category includes half of the shellfish-growing waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Harvest-limited status represents an ecological problem and an economic one, for if current trends continue, wild, natural shell fishing is at stake.
Harvest-Limited Waters and Recreational Boating
A notable example of the impact of coastal development on shellfish-growing waters is the increase in harvest-limited waters, up by half, affected by pollution from recreational boating. Increases in recreational boating in many coastal areas have resulted in a proliferation of marinas, many of which do not have facilities to collect or process sewage. Many marinas are located in or near productive shellfish-growing areas, as are the housing and other facilities related to such development. In 1990 pollution from boating and marinas affected 25 percent of the harvest-limited shellfish-growing waters in half of the shellfish- producing states.
National Shellfish Register
Although reporting on classifications of shellfish-growing waters began with the 1966 National Shellfish Register, data have only been collected and analyzed on pollution sources, landings, and state shellfish programs since 1985. Inferences on relationships of classification, pollution source, and harvest are based most heavily on the 1985-1990 period. Indications are that declines in approved and conditionally approved shellfish-growing waters and wild-stock harvests are continuing.
State Shellfish Management Programs
During the 1985-1990 period, half of the nation's shellfish- producing states reduced funds for shellfish management programs. Continued declines in the funding needed for states to monitor, classify, and manage waters may further reduce the nation's ability to sustain wild and natural stocks of mollusks and other shellfish.
Aquaculture and Molluscan Shellfish
Declines in approved shellfish-growing waters have been paralleled by declines in the harvests of wild or natural stocks of molluscan shellfish. To maintain natural harvests of shellfish, the nation will need to reverse the decline in the water quality of productive estuaries and resolve problems of over harvesting and disease. Aquaculture, involving the propagation, planting, cultivation, and harvest of shellfish in a controlled setting, may offer an option. Successful aquaculture operations in estuaries such as Willapa Bay, in southwest Washington state, have shown that sustained production can be achieved. Aquaculture, however, requires access to high- quality water and a nearby land base. It also requires exclusive use of parcels of land and water, often competing with other uses such as swimming, boating, fishing, and navigation. Although well- established in a few estuaries, aquaculture is not encouraged by existing laws and regulations that govern private access to public lands and approved shellfish-growing waters. Without increased aquaculture, mollusk (oyster and clam) harvests in estuaries are likely to continue to decline.
Environmental Impact of Fish Farms
Aquaculture can provide substantial environmental benefits to wild stocks of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans by providing an alternate source of supply, thereby diminishing harvest pressures. In addition impacts on species caught incidentally to the harvest of target species and damage to the environment caused by some methods of commercial fishing can be reduced when aquaculture serves as a major source of supply. Aquaculture, however, can have negative environmental impacts, if effluents from production facilities are not handled properly, escapement of diseased or nonindigenous species is not controlled, interactions with fish- eating birds and mammals is not managed carefully, and development sites are not chosen in accordance with responsible ecosystem management plans.
In addition to shellfish, populations of virtually all estuarine and inshore species of finfish have been reduced to historically low levels of abundance by over fishing, habitat loss, and pollution. These are both ecological and economic problems.
In 1992 U.S. commercial fishermen earned $3.7 billion in ex-vessel revenue on 4.8 million metric tons of fish and shellfish. About 80 percent of these landings were used directly for human food. The commercial harvesting and seafood-processing sectors of the U.S. economy support 300,000 full-time jobs. With 6 percent of the world's commercial landings, the United States is the sixth largest producer of seafood in the world.
The nation's marine resources support many other uses. For example off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts 17 million U.S. recreational fishermen took 53 million saltwater fishing trips and caught 285 million finfish in 1992. Marine resources also support subsistence fishing by Native Americans and recreational activities such as whale watching. The protection and recovery of depleted stocks of marine mammals, sea turtles, and other threatened and endangered species will yield both ecological and economic benefits.
Northeast Fisheries. Averaged over the 3-year period ending in 1992, the fisheries of the Northeast region contributed 20 percent of the prorated U.S. recent ex-vessel revenue and 16 percent of the volume of the nation's commercial fisheries. Total 1992 landings of all species in the Northeast measured 769,667 tons, with an estimated ex-vessel revenue of $818 million. The mixed-species groundfish fishery is the most valuable fishery of the region ($188 million), followed by American lobster ($161 million) and Atlantic sea scallop ($152 million).
Recreational Fisheries. Species such as cod, winter flounder, mackerel, striped bass, bluefish, and bluefin tuna contribute greatly to the region's economy. A total of 19 million recreational marine fishing trips in 1992 produced landings of 100 million fish.
Long-Term Potential. Recent annual landings of Northeast marine resources have totaled only half of their long-term potential. The discrepancy between recent landings and potential production results from significant over utilization of 18 stocks in the region, including principal groundfish, flounders, and others, and underutilization of 8 stocks. Stocks of Atlantic mackerel and herring are both underutilized at present and collectively could produce an additional 200,000 tons of long-term potential yield. The region is fully utilizing 13 species or stocks.
Southeast Fisheries. The combined U.S. long-term potential yield for southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean living marine resources is estimated at 1.2 million tons (16 percent of the total U.S. long-term potential yield). Recent catches have run 99 percent of current potential yield and 76 percent of long-term potential yield. The status of several of these fisheries follows.
Atlantic Highly Migratory Pelagic Fisheries. Ocean pelagics are highly migratory species that include swordfish, several species of tuna and marlin, sailfish, long bill spearfish, and other minor species. Since 1960 the top species by volume in the U.S. harvest has shifted from bluefin tuna to swordfish to yellow fin tuna as each species became increasingly fished down. A few Atlantic large pelagic species appear to be underutilized, and several are far over utilized.
Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Reef Fish Fisheries. Many southeast Atlantic snappers and groupers, and Caribbean reef fish have been over utilized, and some stocks are at historically low levels. The status of many other reef fish stocks is unknown. Individually these stocks are minor portions of the catch, but, in aggregate, they support valuable recreational and commercial fisheries.
Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Coastal Migratory Pelagic Fisheries. The recreational and commercial coastal pelagic species (mackerels, dolphin fish, and cobia) yield only 56 percent of their estimated aggregate long-term potential yield as a result of over utilization. Certain individual stocks are severely depressed (such as Gulf of Mexico king mackerel). The impact of Mexican fisheries on these stocks is not well known but may affect stock-rebuilding efforts.
Atlantic Shark Fisheries.
Atlantic Shark Fisheries. Seventy-two species of sharks frequent the waters of the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. For many years sharks were fished moderately and only limited to coastal waters. In recent years, however, large coastal sharks (such as white, tiger, lemon, bull, hammerhead) have been fished intensively over broad geographic areas and are considered over utilized. Small coastal sharks (such as Atlantic and Caribbean sharpnose, finetooth, blacknose) are considered fully utilized. Information is insufficient to assess the status of pelagic sharks (such as mako, blue, thresher).
Commercial Shrimp. Currently all commercial shrimp species are approaching their long-term potential yield level, but these fisheries are overcapitalized and could produce similar yields with considerably less effort, if fishing mortality were reduced. For this reason they are classified as over utilized. A consequence of excessive fishing mortality on shrimp is excessive by catch, which adversely impacts finfish stocks. The dominant catches are Gulf of Mexico brown, white, and pink shrimp, which represent 89 percent of the total U.S. shrimp catch. In 1991 those three species produced a total catch of 104,361 tons, valued in excess of $400 million.
West Coast and Western Pacific Fisheries. West Coast and Pacific island fisheries account for 1.1 million tons and 15 percent of the U.S. long-term potential yield. These include fisheries for tuna, bill fish, and swordfish (Pacific-wide); reef and seamount finfish and lobster (Pacific islands); and U.S. West Coast groundfish, salmon, coastal pelagic fishes, and the near shore species. On the Pacific Coast, including near shore resources, most of the stocks are fully utilized or over utilized, with only 2 of 38 stocks underutilized. In the oceanic Pacific, 8 of 22 stocks are underutilized; the status of 7 others is unknown. The status of several of these fisheries follows.
Pacific Salmon Fisheries. Long a part of the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest, salmon support commercial and recreational fisheries and tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries in Washington, Oregon, and California. All five species (chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum) are considered over utilized in the region. Loss of spawning habitats, impacts from hydroelectric power development, and harvest appear to be the main causes of salmon decline. Habitat restoration, changes in hydroelectric operations, and fishing limitations are needed to protect the stocks. Management is complex, involving many stocks that originate from various rivers and under several management jurisdictions. Chinook and coho salmon are managed primarily by the bilateral Pacific Salmon Commission and state and tribal fishery agencies.
Coastal Pelagic Fisheries. Providing food, bait, and industrial fishery products along the Pacific Coast, all of these species are fully utilized except jack mackerel, one of the few underutilized West Coast species. The Pacific sardine population has been increasing after decades of low abundance.
Invertebrates. Of the western Pacific invertebrate fisheries regulated by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMD), the spiny and slipper lobster fishery is the most valuable, but landings and effort have dropped substantially since 1989 because of over exploitation. The fishery was closed in 1993 to allow rebuilding of these stocks.
Alaska Fisheries. The Alaska region is one of the most productive areas of the world's oceans, supporting large populations of salmon, groundfish, crabs, marine mammals, and seabirds. Fishing is a tradition and heritage in Alaska. It contributes significantly to the recreation, food supply, and economy of Alaska; it helps reduce the U.S. trade deficit; and it is the largest nongovernment employer in the state. Alaska's combined long-term potential yield of economical species is 3.8 million tons. Marine resources are generally in a healthy condition with current potential yield only 5 percent below the long-term potential yield. The recent average yield has been steady at 2.4 million tons. The extra yield potential cannot be fully utilized, because the harvest is managed conservatively to offset scientific uncertainty and lack of data. Management objectives include economic, by catch, and protected species considerations.
U.S. Near shore Fisheries. Atlantic oysters, hard and softshell clams, bay scallops, and abalones are over utilized, at least in part of their ranges. Fully utilized resources include Pacific shrimp and clams, Dungeness crab, blue crab, and calico scallop. Because these species frequent near shore waters, they are not included in federal fishery management plans. Some are managed under regional, state, and/or local authority employing measures such as size limits, gear restrictions, area closures, bag limits, and catch quotas.
Contaminants and Pollutants in Coastal Waters
Of the various pollutants released to the environment, little is known about how they affect marine organisms. In 1993 a number of state and federal programs gathered data on coastal water contaminants and pollutants.
Fish Kills in Coastal Waters
Impact assessments based solely on fish kills provide only partial and conservative inferences of pollutant effects; however, they do help define the spatial and temporal dimensions of potential problems such as areas with recurring problems. Temporal records of fish kills also can be used to evaluate evidence of water quality problems such as pesticide spills or discharges of high levels of chlorine disinfectant from a wastewater treatment plant. Some fish kills are linked to natural phenomena such as oxygen depletion resulting from sustained periods of hot weather coupled with low-flow conditions. Many events, however, are linked to a complex combination of human-related and natural factors such as an oxygen depletion resulting from algal blooms stimulated by nutrients carried in nonpoint-source runoff.
The Public Health Service began reporting pollution-caused fish kills in 1960. In 1972 reporting was transferred to the EPA where it remained until discontinued in 1991. Using data from the EPA program and other sources, the NOAA issued a 1991 report on fish kills in coastal waters, with the following findings:
Number of Fish Kills. From 1980 to 1989, over 3,650 fish-kill events, involving 407 million fish, were reported to have occurred in 533 coastal and near-coastal counties in 22 states. Although fish kill data are difficult to evaluate over time, an upward trend exists in the number of events, with a downward trend in the number of fish killed nationwide.
Timing of Fish Kills. The largest number of events (64 percent) and the highest number of fish killed (86 percent) occurred during the warmest months of the year, May through September. The month with the single greatest number of events was August, while the event with the greatest number of fish killed took place in June.
Causes of Fish Kills. Urban land use, natural events, and low dissolved oxygen were the most frequently cited causes of fish kills. The largest reported fish kill occurred in the Jolly Rogers Canal in Jamaica Beach, Texas, where an estimated 50 million gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) died due to low dissolved oxygen from unspecified sources. Toxic releases or spills, a less frequent cause of fish kills, tend to be more localized and to kill fewer fish.
Types of Fish Killed. The families of fish most commonly involved in a kill event are Clupeidae (menhaden, shad, herring), Centrarchidae (sunfish, bluegill, bass), and Cyprinidae (carps, minnows, dace, chubs, shiners). Of these Clupeidae are involved in 36 percent of all fish-kill events and account for 61 percent of the total number of fish killed.
National Coastal Pollutant Discharge Inventory
In 1993 the federal government continued documenting marine pollution off U.S. coasts. The NOAA first began gathering data for the National Coastal Pollutant Discharge Inventory (NCPDI) in 1982. This database contains pollutant-loading estimates for major categories of point, nonpoint, and riverine sources of pollution that discharge to the estuaries, coasts, and oceanic waters of the contiguous United States, excluding the Great Lakes. The inventory estimates discharge rates for 9 major source categories and 17 pollutants. These estimates, made for the base year 1982, approximate pollutant discharge conditions for 1980-1985, and estimates are updated continuously.
Gulf of Mexico States. Reports for Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico states, summarize the number, type, location, and pollutant discharge characteristics of major dischargers in the NCPDI study area. This information provides coastal resource managers with valuable insight into which facilities are major dischargers to coastal waters.
Virginian and Acadian Provinces. Reports on the Virginian Province, Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, and on the Acadian Province, the Gulf of Maine, were scheduled for release in 1994.
Contaminants in Sediments and Marine Organisms
Since 1986 the NOAA National Status and Trends (NS&T) Program for marine environmental quality has made annual collections and chemical analyses of mussels and oysters from a set of 200 sites around the coastal and estuarine United States. With the possible exception of an increase in copper, the only observable national trends in contaminant concentrations through 1992 have been decreases. Statistically the decreases have been seen in concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons (DDT, PCB, chlordane) and two trace elements (cadmium and lead). The use of these chemicals has been banned or severely curtailed, and other chemicals are subject to regulations. Although regulations have not caused decreasing trends, they perhaps account for the lack of increases.
Because the NS&T Program is by definition national, its sampling sites are selected to represent large areas and its assessments of distribution and temporal trends in contamination apply on a large scale. Although nationwide the trends do not show chemical contamination as a serious threat to environmental health, extreme levels of contamination can occur over smaller spatial scales and cause severe biological effects. To quantify the cumulative extent of such contamination, the NS&T Program conducts bioeffects surveys with closely spaced samples collected along contaminant-concentration gradients. Surveys have been conducted in Boston Harbor, Long Island Sound, Hudson Raritan Estuary, Charleston Harbor, Tampa Bay, bays along the Florida panhandle, Southern California Bight, and San Francisco Bay.
In all of these locations sediment toxicity was measured with a series of test organisms, and native fish were examined for evidence of histological and genetic damage and reproductive losses attributable to chemical contamination. Since responses to contamination among native fish vary with species, comparisons can only be made among locations with common species. In each location at least a few sites had sediments toxic to at least one of the test organisms. Whether the bioeffects measurement is based on bioassays or on responses among native fish, the effects are found over relatively limited areas close to centers of population and industrial activity.
Nutrient Enrichment in Estuaries
Among the most prominent barometers of human impacts on the nation's coastal and estuarine ecosystems is the continuing decline in water quality in estuaries, particularly problems associated with the excessive discharge of nutrients to estuaries. Even though reports dating back to 1969 consistently identify nutrient enrichment as a critical concern, no effort has been made to quantify and evaluate the nationwide extent, scope, and severity of the problem.
Scientists can explain how and why eutrophication occurs but to formulate an effective response, they need more complete and comprehensive information. In 1993 the NOAA initiated the National Assessment of Nutrient Enrichment Conditions in Estuaries as a first step toward solving recurring and persistent nutrient enrichment problems. The program is establishing a database and identifying areas of priority concern. It also is evaluating monitoring and research needs and establishing a network of local and regional expertise. More precise data on the national significance of this environmental issue will be available in 1994-1995.
Agricultural Pesticide Runoff
Over 29.4 million pounds of 35 commonly used agricultural pesticides were applied to the 32 million acres of cropland in the nation's coastal watersheds in 1987 (the latest year for which these estimates are available from the NOAA). The Gulf of Mexico region had the highest agricultural application of chemical pesticides, with over 10 million pounds, followed closely by the South Atlantic region with nearly 10 million pounds and the Middle Atlantic region with 8 million pounds.
Florida Bay, an Estuary of Concern
One estuary of critical concern to coastal resource managers is Florida Bay, located between the southern tip of the peninsula and the keys. This bay strongly influences the salinity, temperature, and quality of the waters surrounding the Middle Florida Keys, and any strategy to improve the water quality of these islands must consider the bay. Considerable scientific controversy exists regarding the effects of changes in the water quality and quantity of Florida Bay.
Seagrasses have been dying in the bay since 1987, with the decline of the pink shrimp fishery linked to the seagrass die- off. Over the past several years, algal blooms that have caused the death of sponges have been linked to adverse impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries. Controversy exists about whether the algal blooms are the result of the seagrass die-off, in which case increasing freshwater flows to Florida Bay could help, or whether algal blooms result from sources of excess nutrients that are external to Florida Bay, in which case increasing freshwater flows could increase the problem by adding nutrients to the bay. The unanswered questions in Florida Bay are perhaps the most salient example of the need for eutrophication research.
The Chesapeake Bay estuarine drainage area had the highest rate of pesticide application with nearly 5 million pounds applied to land within the basin. The highest hazard-normalized application (an application is normalized according to its potential hazard to the aquatic environment) occurred in the Albemarle/Pamlico Sounds estuarine drainage area in the South Atlantic region.
Although the presence of pesticides in coastal waters causes fish kills, residues in aquatic biota, and changes in estuarine community biomass, observable impacts do not appear to be widespread. Impacts are most often observable near the site of pesticide application and during the growing season. The lower environmental persistence and bioconcentration potentials of the 35 pesticides in the NOAA inventory, compared to pesticides used in the past, appear to account for reduced impacts on aquatic organisms.
Spills of Oil and Hazardous Materials
Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to improve the nation's ability to respond to oil and hazardous materials spills. The Coast Guard (USCG), which implements the OPA in the coastal zone, is responsible for responding to spills with assistance from National Response Team (NRT) agencies, including the NOAA Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment (HAZMAT) Division. In 1993 agencies responded to 9,809 oil spills, 350 chemical spills, and 660 spills of unknown material. The NOAA provided scientific support on 67 oil spills and 14 chemical spills.
In 1993 federal agencies developed management strategies for coastal ecosystems to reduce nonpoint-source pollution entering the nation's coastal waters and to improve response to oil and hazardous material spills.
NOAA Coastal Ecosystem Management Programs
The NOAA has created cross-disciplinary science and management teams to work on marine resource issues, at the national level as well as in selected coastal ecosystems. In 1993 operations included support for state coastal watershed management objectives; ecosystem management on protected areas, such as the 13 National Marine Sanctuaries, and revised habitat protection and restoration efforts.
Coastal GIS. The NOAA is developing a comprehensive, national information system to support decisionmaking at the ecosystem and coastal watershed levels. The system will describe the health, biodiversity, and integrity of coastal ecosystems as well as changes in land cover and land use. It will use satellite imagery, aerial photography, in-situ monitoring, research data, and other collateral data within a geographic information system (GIS) context. The effort is cooperative and cost-shared with other federal and state agencies.
Coastal Ecosystem Outreach. NOAA scientists and outreach specialists are translating highly technical information for use by all coastal resource managers. On the international level, in 1993 the NOAA helped prepare a joint Canada-USA proposal for a pilot project to develop and share information on managing marine resources along the East Coast of North America.
National Estuarine Research Reserves. The NOAA National Oceans Service (NOS) administers the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, in conjunction with participating coastal states. The estuarine reserves program was established to preserve estuaries and seek new knowledge of these vital areas. In 1993 the National Estuarine Research Reserve System consisted of 21 reserves encompassing 400,559 acres.
National Marine Sanctuaries
Congress established the National Marine Sanctuary Program in 1972 in response to public concerns about the effects of pollution on marine resources. Today 14 sanctuaries protect 18,500 square miles, from the 5,327-square-mile Monterey Bay site off California to Fagatele Bay's 0.3-square-mile tropical coral reef system off Tutuila Island in American Samoa. Reefs, underwater canyons, historic shipwrecks, and a diversity of marine life provide opportunities for marine education to elevate respect for marine resources and awareness of their vulnerability and the need for conservation. The newest sanctuaries, those surrounding the Florida Keys and off the coast of central California, provide opportunities to sustain marine biodiversity in areas that are culturally, historically, and commercially significant. Coastal management and ongoing research provide information on climate change, marine biodiversity, and critical marine habitats.
Florida Keys Sanctuary DEIS. In 1993 the NOAA helped establish a process for reaching consensus on complex coastal management issues. A National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council working with a core group of local experts, released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The document includes an overview of the affected environment (2,600 square nautical miles), a sum-mary of management strategies and alternatives, assessments of the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of each management strategy, and a description of how these strategies can be implemented.
Oil Spill Response and Contingency Plans. As part of its Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment Program, the NOAA is developing oil spill response and contingency plans for its marine sanctuaries and estuarine reserves, beginning with the Monterey Bay (California) and Key Largo (Florida) National Marine Sanctuaries.
Natural Resource Damages. In 1993 the NOAA continued to investigate potential biological effects resulting from the industrial and nuclear waste dump site within the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco. Working from a research vessel, the NOAA and EPA obtained samples of sediment and sable fish within a dumpsite. The use of a submarine and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to determine the status of waste containers was planned for 1994.
EPA National Estuary Program
The EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds administers the National Estuary Program (NEP). The NEP is designed to protect and restore the health of estuaries while supporting economic and recreational activities. To meet these goals, the EPA helps develop partnerships between government agencies that oversee estuarine resources, and the people who depend on the estuaries for their livelihood and quality of life. Each of the 21 estuary programs in the NEP develops a comprehensive plan that identifies environmental problems, recommends solutions, and makes financial commitments for implementing the solutions. The plan is approved by the EPA and the governor of the state. In 1993 comprehensive plans for Narragansett Bay and San Francisco Bay were approved.
Nonpoint-Source Pollution Management
In 1993 the EPA released technical guidance for coastal states to provide a foundation for reducing nonpoint-source pollution. Although state programs to prevent and reduce nonpoint-source pollution have been underway for many years, water quality impairment remains a serious issue for many coastal areas.
Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments. These 1990 amendments, known as the CZARA, require that all states with approved coastal zone management programs develop programs to control coastal pollution. States without approved Coastal Zone Management (CZM) programs are subject to loss of funding. The amendments directed the EPA, in consultation with other agencies, to issue guidance specifying management measures to control nonpoint-source pollution. The CZARA also requires the EPA to implement nonpoint-source pollution controls with enforceable mechanisms and policies.
Best Available Technology. The EPA guidance provides economically achievable measures that reflect the best available technology for reducing pollutants from sources, including agriculture, forestry, urban areas, marinas and recreational boating, and hydro- modification. The EPA and NOAA developed companion guidance for incorporating management measures into state coastal zone programs. The guidance provides states with new information on ways to address the most serious threats to water quality in coastal waters.
Oil and Hazardous Pollution Prevention
In 1993 the Coast Guard, NOAA, and other federal agencies and state governments cooperated on a number of programs to improve hazardous materials response and assessment. Programs included monitoring the recovery of shoreline environments from spilled oil, for example Prince William Sound in Alaska. Both the Coast Guard and the State of Alaska declared the Exxon Valdez cleanup complete in June 1992. Significant 1993 actions related to the spill included the report of the Coast Guard On-Scene Coordinator (OSC), published in September, and the successful testing of a microbial bioremediation agent in July.
Coast Guard On-Scene Coordinators. The OSC coordinates planning efforts at the area level, supported by other federal, state, and local agencies. The 48 Area Committees in the coastal United States are involved in interagency planning, intensive mapping, and trajectory modeling support for threat assessment, shoreline- specific protection strategies, and habitat-specific treatment plans. In 1993 prototype, all-digital Environmental Sensitivity Index maps had been prepared for most coastal shorelines.
Oil Spill Response Plans. The OPA requires oil spill response plans for tank vessels and marine transportation facilities. Approved plans are valid for up to five years. In 1993 the Coast Guard received 1,500 vessel response plans for 6,000 vessels and 2,600 facility response plans.
Area Contingency Plans. Coastal and Inland Area Contingency Plans (ACPs), mandated by the OPA, expand and improve local oil spill response planning by involving local government, industry, and private citizens in the planning process. By July 1, 1993, all coastal ACPs had been submitted for Coast Guard review. Inland ACPs are subject to EPA jurisdiction.
Spills of National Significance. The Coast Guard developed a catastrophic spill plan to provide an effective response to Spills of National Significance (SONS), such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The SONS Task Force report was under review in 1993. Once approved the SONS protocol will be incorporated into appropriate planning documents.
State and Federal Regulations. Since states have leeway under the OPA to regulate the maritime industry, inconsistent state and federal requirements can result. A new Coast Guard program improves coordination with the states and forges a more consistent environmental protection strategy. A comprehensive Memorandum of Agreement sets forth the relationship between the Coast Guard and the states with respect to marine environmental protection activities. Agreements have been signed with California, Hawaii, and the Territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. In 1993 negotiations were underway with four additional states.
Liability. In 1991 in response to the OPA, the Coast Guard created the National Pollution Funds Center to address claims related to oil discharges. The OPA allows each state up to $250,000 in federal funds per incident for immediate removal costs. States also may perform removal actions under the direct supervision of the Federal On Scene Coordinator, or they may submit claims under OPA section 1012(a)(4) for uncompensated removal costs determined by the President to be consistent with the National Contingency Plan. These options are not subject to the $250,000 limit per incident.
Scientific Support Coordinators. A network of NOAA support coordinators, located in USCG districts, provides the Coast Guard with round-the-clock scientific and technical support in responding to oil and hazardous materials spills nationwide. Coordinators are located in New York City; Boston; Portsmouth, Virginia; Miami; New Orleans; Cleveland; Long Beach, California; Seattle; and Anchorage. Since 1976 the NOAA has responded to spills on virtually all U.S. coastlines and to many spills in international waters. NOAA spill support to the Coast Guard includes trajectory analysis; assessing the nature, behavior, and fate of oil and hazardous substance spilled; identification of natural resources requiring protection; and evaluating various cleanup strategies for effectiveness.
HAZMAT Technical Experts. The NOAA Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment (HAZMAT) Division provides technical experts to work with the USCG, state agencies, and industry. They help collect the detailed local physical, biological, and geomorphologic information needed to develop site-specific countermeasure plans for spills of oil and hazardous materials. One result of their ongoing work was the 1993 Coast Guard report, Preventing Oil Spills in Delaware Bay.
Global Positioning System. In 1993 the Department of Transportation worked with the Department of Defense and other interested parties to expand civil applications of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which includes the implementation of Differential GPS (DGPS). The Coast Guard plans to implement a full DGPS network by 1996 that will cover the coastline of the continental United States, the Great Lakes, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Mississippi River basin. The system, which will provide 3-meter accuracy, has the potential to reduce ship accidents in adverse conditions, thereby reducing the number of polluting incidents at sea.
Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations. CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations), a software program designed to address the needs of emergency planners and first responders to chemical spills, was used in 1993 in response to spills of oil and hazardous materials. It contains information on 3,000 commonly transported chemicals and a dozen easily adaptable database files with the means for meeting the data management requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right To Know Act (Title III of SARA, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986).
Air Dispersion Modeling Software. In 1993 the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California selected the NOAA HAZMAT air dispersion modeling software, ALOHA 5.0, as the standard model for emergency response at chlorinating facilities throughout Southern California. This software is used by chemical emergency response organizations, including municipal fire departments, state and local agencies, and industry.
The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Species Prevention and Control Act of 1990 requires the Coast Guard to take the following actions:
. Develop a ballast water management program for the Great Lakes;
. Issue mandatory ballast management regulations for the Great Lakes;
. Provide mariner education services; and
. Conduct a study of the extent to which shipping is a vector for the introduction of aquatic nuisance species such as the zebra mussel.
Regulations requiring ballast exchange by vessels headed for Great Lakes ports in the United States went into effect on May 10, 1993. In 1993 legislation was proposed that would require the Coast Guard to develop a similar program for the Hudson River.
Coastal Transport of Trash and Medical Debris
The Shore Protection Act of 1988 is intended to help prevent the deposit of trash and medical debris in U.S. coastal waters. The DOT and EPA are responsible for issuing permits and enforcing regulations implementing the act. Since 1989, when permit responsibilities were delegated to the Coast Guard, 350 permits have been issued, primarily to garbage barges, sewage sludge barges, and vessels hauling drilling mud in the Gulf of Mexico.
Natural Resource Damages
The NOAA is expanding its capabilities in natural resource damage assessment on an ecosystem basis to negotiate and litigate settlements with responsible parties, to identify areas within coastal systems suitable for protection or restoration, and to undertake restoration activities.
The NOAA damage assessment and restoration program meets the trustee responsibilities of the agency under the Superfund Act; Oil Pollution Act; Clean Water Act; and the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act. The program addresses releases of oil and hazardous materials, as well as all types of injuries to marine sanctuary resources. Among program accomplishments in 1993 were the following:
Blackbird Mine and Chinook Salmon. In 1993 the NOAA Damage Assessment Center (DAC) began its first mine waste damage assessment at the Blackbird Mine on the Salmon National Forest in Idaho. Acid runoff and high concentrations of copper and other heavy metals contributed to the elimination of Chinook salmon, a threatened species, in the Panther Creek watershed. The State of Idaho, NOAA, and the USDA Forest Service have begun a unified damage assessment. The Blackbird Mine is one of 24 natural resource damage cases that the NOAA Damage Assessment Center worked on in 1993.
Commencement Bay Superfund Site. The NOAA and four co-trustees, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington State Department of Ecology, Puyallup Tribe, and Muckleshoot Tribe are implementing the first phase of a bay-wide natural resource damage assessment for the Commencement Bay Near shore Tide Flats Superfund site in Washington. Ten industrial and local government potentially responsible parties (PRPs) have agreed to contribute to funding the damage assessment in return for the opportunity to participate in planning and implementation. The trustees previously negotiated a natural resource damage settlement worth $1 million with two parties, Champion International Corp. and Simpson Tacoma Kraft Co., for a portion of the site and have agreed on a bay-wide settlement worth in excess of $12 million with the Port of Tacoma.
New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site. The first federal claim under Superfund for damages to marine resources was filed on behalf of the NOAA by the U. S. Department of Justice in December 1983. The claim was for injuries to coastal and marine species resulting from discharges of PCBs into New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts. The third and final settlement in this case, for $10 million, was approved in early 1993. The total of all three settlements for natural resource damages and trustee costs was $21.3 million, with an additional $10 million held in an escrow account to be used either by the EPA or the trustees to clean up PCB hot spots in the outer harbor where fishery closures are still in effect.
East Coast Oil Spills. Settlements have been reached in negotiations on two major east coast oil spills-the June 24, 1989, Presidente Rivera spill in the Delaware River and the June 7, 1990, B/T Nautilus spill in the Arthur Kill in New York Harbor. The Presidente Rivera case was settled in late 1993 for approximately $3.9 million in natural resource damages and costs. The B/T Nautilus case was settled in late 1993 for $4 million in natural resource damages and costs. The NOAA, DOI, and states affected by each spill (Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) have collaborated as co-trustees in damage assessments and negotiations.
Spiller Restoration. The NOAA Damage Assessment Center, the Restoration Center in the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, and the NOAA Office of General Counsel are working on two innovative, restoration-based settlements in which the spillers (Mobil Mining and Minerals in Texas and Greenhill Petroleum in Louisiana) will carry out a restoration under trustee supervision rather than paying the trustees monetary damages. Under these pending settlements, the trustees will be paid for assessment costs, restoration oversight, and long-term monitoring costs. Such settlements are a more effective and efficient way to resolve natural resource damage claims where no significant claim can be made for interim lost resource services, such as recreational fishing or boating, reduced or lost between the time of the spill and restoration.
Rapid-Response Capability. In 1993 the NOAA Damage Assessment Center completed a rapid response system for assessing oil and chemical spills. The DAC now can send support personnel to a spill site within six hours of notification. This rapid response capability enabled the NOAA to take the lead in organizing co-trustees and in planning initial damage assessment during the March 28, 1993, Colonial Pipeline spill in Reston, Virginia.
International Coastal Pollution Control
The following are examples of efforts to control international coastal pollution supported by the United States in 1993.
MARPOL Convention. The MARPOL 73/78 Convention is the primary international instrument for the control of marine pollution from ships. The Convention's five annexes contain specific regulations for preventing operational discharges of harmful substances, with more restrictive regulations for certain substances in designated Special Areas. Among the Special Areas designated under Annex V (garbage) is the Wider Caribbean, and in April 1993 the Coast Guard coordinated a MARPOL Annex V Enforcement Workshop sponsored by a number of agencies.
International Convention on Oil Pollution. Following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March 1989, the Coast Guard negotiated the creation of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation (OPRC) through the International Maritime Organization. The Coast Guard is using OPRC as an umbrella agreement under which future international response planning will be coordinated. The Convention enters into force on May 13, 1995.
Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. This nonbinding agreement among Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, the United States, and Russia was signed in June 1991. Through an Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, the AEPS addresses the issue of Russian dumping of radioactive wastes. In 1993 the Coast Guard led the development of a regional environmental risk assessment to determine whether existing international agreements are adequate to deal with environmental emergencies in the Arctic.
Brady, S.J. and C.H. Flather, -Changes in Wetlands on Nonfederal Rural Land of the Conterminous United States from 1982 to 1987,- Environmental Management 18(5):693-705 (1994).
Coastal America, Forging Partnerships to Restore Coastal Environments: A Coastal America Progress Report, (Washington, DC: CA, January 1994).
Dahl, T.E., Wetlands Losses in the United States 1780's to 1980's, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1990).
C.E. Johnson, and W.E. Frayer, Wetlands Status and Trends in the Conterminous United States Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1991).
Frayer, W.E., T.J. Monahan, D.C. Bowden, and F.A. Graybill, Status and Trends of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats in the Conterminous United States, 1950's to 1970's, (Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University, 1983).
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service and Soil Conservation Service, 1992 Wetlands Reserve Program: Report to Congress (Washington, DC: USDA, ASCS & SCS, 1993).
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries of the United States, 1993, (Washington, DC: GPO, May 1994).
Our Living Oceans, A Report on the Status of U.S. Living Marine Resources, 1993, (Silver Spring, MD: DOC, NOAA, NMFS, December 1993).
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, 50 Years of Population Change along the Nation's Coasts, 1960-2010, (Rockville, MD: DOC, NOAA, NOS, April 1990).
Coastal Environmental Quality in the United States, 1990: Chemical Contamination in Sediment and Tissues, (Rockville, MD: DOC, NOAA, NOS, October 1990).
Estuaries of the United States: Vital Statistics on a National Resource Base, (Rockville, MD: DOC, NOAA, NOS, October 1990).
Mussel Watch: Recent Trends in Coastal Environmental Quality: Results from the First Five Years of the NOAA Mussel Watch Project, (Rockville, MD: DOC, NOAA, NOS, August 1992).
The 1990 National Shellfish Register of Classified Estuarine Waters, (Rockville, MD: DOC, NOAA, NOS, July 1991).
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Water Quality Inventory: 1992 Report
to Congress, (Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Water, March 1994).
The Quality of Our Nation's Water: 1992, (Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Water, March 1994).
U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard, Polluting Incidents In and Around U.S. Waters, (Washington, DC: DOT, USCG, annual).