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Groundfish Assessment Program

Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Workshop

Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) is an emerging NOAA-wide initiative to acquire, manage, integrate, and disseminate ocean and coastal geospatial mapping data. This effort seeks to provide easy access to these data and their derivative products for a diverse group of public and private end users. To be successful, IOCM requires a high level of coordination within the agency and with other groups engaged in seafloor mapping. The NOAA IOCM vision is “map once, use many times.”

Scientists from all NMFS Science Centers met with representatives from the hydrographic surveying side of NOAA and other Federal agencies in Silver Spring, Maryland, on 18-19 March 2009. Based on a 5-year planning horizon, the workshop objectives were to 1) create a better understanding of ocean and coastal mapping activities across NOAA so that NOAA programs can better coordinate and 2) gather input on and build support for a proposed vision and business model for NOAA IOCM.

In addition to broad NOAA representation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Geological Survey also participated in the workshop. A series of presentations by experts on various aspects of hydrographic surveying, NOAA vessels, and digital data products comprised the workshop agenda, which in turn served as background for small working groups charged to discuss coordination, data standards and management, technology development and enhancement, and outreach and communications.

A seminar preceding the workshop given by AFSC scientist Bob McConnaughey titled “Basin-scale habitat studies in the eastern Bering Sea” provided a fisheries perspective to attendees and demonstrated the value of quantitative acoustic data from the seafloor for objectively characterizing the essential fish habitat (EFH) of groundfish and crab species.

The proceedings demonstrated a clear need for greater coordination of the diverse ocean and coastal mapping activities occurring in the U.S. EEZ (exclusive economic zone). Because mapping costs are high and suitable ship time is limited, it was recognized that better communication amongst those engaged in ocean and coastal mapping was a critical function to be provided by an expanded IOCM organization. To this end, there was broad consensus that dynamic internal and external websites are needed to provide details on NOAA vessel capabilities, to identify projects already completed, and to identify projects still being planned (to promote efficient use of limited resources). These Web sites could also be configured to improve data tracking, encourage creation of Federal Geographic Data Committee-compliant metadata, and monitor overall progress toward the common National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) data repository.

The workshop planning team and facilitators are reviewing and summarizing the workshop breakout session results as part of the process leading to NOAA-wide coordination of ocean and coastal mapping in the next 5 years.

By Bob McConnaughey

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