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March 6, 2008
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the U.S. Army Dive Company are joining forces this month to repair buoy moorings, remove trash from dive sites, and install listening devices to track fish in national marine sanctuaries off Florida and Georgia.
Supported by 130 Army divers, the three week pilot project is currently underway in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and will begin in mid-March in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the Georgia coast.
“This pilot program will be extremely helpful by applying military capabilities to support ongoing civilian efforts in preserving and protecting valuable marine resources found in the sanctuaries,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
"We hope that this is the beginning of a long-standing relationship with NOAA. We can provide NOAA with needed engineer diving support and they provide us with real world missions to keep the U.S. Army Dive Company trained and ready for deployment around the world in support of the Global War on Terror,” said Capt. Charles Denike, commander, U.S. Army Dive Company.
In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA and Army divers will assist the Sanctuary Mooring Buoy Program, which is responsible for managing a system of more than 700 buoys throughout the Florida Keys Sanctuary. Tasks for this dive team will include inspecting, maintaining, repairing, and installing mooring buoys located around the area of Key West.
In addition, the dive team will conduct several dives to remove marine debris from two popular Florida Keys shipwreck dive sites, the Adolphus Busch and the Cayman Salvager, off Key West.
In the Gray's Reef Sanctuary, divers will focus on four projects installing acoustic receivers and field testing acoustic transmitters that will support sanctuary fish behavior research and monitoring. They will also install permanent marine debris monitoring transects and conduct surveys along them. The acoustic receivers will enable Gray’s Reef scientists to track the movements of specially tagged fish, such as grouper and snapper, among the diverse habitats within the sanctuary.
During this effort the U.S. Army Dive Company, based in Ft. Eustis, Va., will apply their dive time towards annual training and proficiency dive requirements. If the Army’s work in the sanctuaries proves successful this year, plans may expand to assist other sanctuaries in the future.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,896 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest near-shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 17 square miles off the Georgia coast. The sanctuary consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to eight feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat supports an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.