Nautical News: For the week of March 11th, 2012

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY FOR JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI

It’s been exactly one year today since the horrifying earthquake and tsunami hit Japan causing 15,850 deaths, 6,011 people injured, and 3,287 people still missing. A debris field the size of California is just now reaching the west coast of the United States. The earthquake and tsunami also took a heavy toll on northeast Japan’s fishing and seafood industries after radiation leaked into the water from the destroyed nuclear power plants. Sampling of fish continues today, but only a few areas were ever closed to fishing. Most Japanese seafood was unaffected, and the Japanese will prove that at the Boston International Seafood Show that opens this weekend as they rebuild their economy and replace their fishing boats.


100TH ANNIVERSARY OF SINKING OF TITANIC APRIL 15TH

Nearly 100 years on April 15th, the Titanic sank about 375 miles south of Newfoundland after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage from England to New York killing 1,517 people. Now for the first time, researchers using sonar and more than 100,000 photos taken by underwater robots, have pieced together a map of the entire 3 by 5 mile debris field that lies on the bottom of the ocean. Details on the new findings will be released in a two-hour documentary on TV’s History channel on April 15th.


BALLAST WATER DISCHARGE STANDARD READY FOR APPROVAL

The biggest maritime story of the year might have happened this past week. The Coast Guard Ballast Water Discharge Standard regulation, which has been in the works for more than a decade, is now ready for approval in Washington. If approved, more than 40,000 ships will need to be retrofitted with ballast water treatment equipment. This could be very good news for the shipbuilding industry, especially if the ships are retrofitted in the United States. On the other hand, ship owners say the regulation could cost them a million dollars for each ship and ultimately, consumers will pay for the increase in the cost of the goods delivered.


4TH BODY FROM COAST GUARD HELICOPTER CRASH RECOVERED

After almost 11 days of searching, the 4th body of the Coast Guard aircrew member who died when the helicopter he was on crashed in Mobile Bay was recovered. He was the flight mechanic on the French built Dolphin helicopter that crashed on February 28th during a training flight. The bodies of Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, of Snow Hill, N.C. and Lt. j.g Thomas Cameron, of Portland, Oregon were recovered March 1st. The rescue swimmer, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, of Cypress Valley, California, was recovered the night of the crash. The four were based at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. The cause of the crash is under investigation.


CONGRESSMAN CALLS FOR CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF NOAA

Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney is now calling for a congressional investigation into the status of the notorious $300,000 luxurious boat purchased by NOAA, since Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the head of NOAA, refuses to answer his letters or questions. Just this past Wednesday, at a budget hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco was asked about the boat scandal, but she refused to provide any details. An investigation by the office of U.S. Inspector General Todd Zinser found that NOAA agents had booze fueled parties with friends and families on the $300,000 boat, and in one incident, one of its brand new three engines had to be replaced at a cost of $30,000 due to operator error. So far, no one at NOAA has been held accountable, making Senator Scott Brown ask, “What does it take to get fired at NOAA?”


FUNDS NOT PUT INTO MARINE RECREATIONAL FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT FUND

Volunteers from the Mass Marine Trades legislative committee reported that Section 49 of the FY 2012 Supplemental Budget, signed by Governor Deval Patrick on March 1, provided for $612,893 to be transferred from the General Fund to the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund. The statute creating that fund states that no less than 1/3 of those funds must be spent on existing or new facilities and other activities that improve public access to recreational saltwater fishing. However, Mass Marine Trades Association reports that they were spent on other Division of Marine Fisheries priorities. The situation is being closely watched to be sure the money is indeed used to improve public access and not to regulate and reduce recreational fishing.

BELFAST ROWING TEAM WINS 33RD HULL SNOW ROW

Hundreds of spectators watched the Belfast Rowing Club from Ireland, all dressed in green, win the 33rd annual Hull Snow Row, which is organized by the Hull Lifesaving Museum. The Belfast Rowing Club was established in 1880 and is one of the oldest of more than 100 rowing clubs in Ireland. The Belfast Club competes around the world and has won many championships, both male & female, including “THE BRITANNIA CHALLENGE CUP.” In days of old, teams in row boats would act as pilot boats to guide the big sailing ships into a harbor. Races often developed between row boats because the first one to reach the big ship would get the job of guiding it into the harbor.


SEA SHEPHERDERS SEND JAPANESE WHALING SHIPS HOME

Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society declared victory this week as Japan’s whaling fleet left the Antarctic with less than a third of its expected catch. The Japanese killed 267 whales, far short of the 900 whales they wanted to kill. Sabotage acts, such as using steel cables to damage the whaling ship’s propellers, shining laser beams into the captain’s eyes, and throwing bottles of acid on to the deck of the factory whaling ship were blamed for the poor whale hunt and sending the Japanese ships home. Last month, the Japanese unsuccessfully asked a U.S. judge to freeze the Sea Shepherd’s bank accounts, accusing the group of financing terrorism.


BREADCRUMB SPONGES WASH UP ON LOCAL BEACHES

And last on today’s nautical news, a type of sponge called the breadcrumb sponge is washing up on our local beaches this week. The sponges are soft and when you break them open, they are bright yellow and look like bread crumbs. Scientists said the breadcrumb sponge can be found in the northern Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and around the southern African coast. However, very little is known about how they reproduce.

About John Shea