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Seafloor Mapping Mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands Completed

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and partners just completed a successful seafloor mapping mission off the southern coasts of St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The team used various SONAR technologies and a remotely operated vehicle to better understand the physical characteristics of the seafloor, locate and explore important seafloor habitats, and study fish populations and distributions at suspected spawning aggregation sites. During the mission the scientists found an unexpectedly vast area of high coral cover southwest of St. Thomas, and several schools of relatively rare groupers and snappers at spawning aggregation sites at the shelf edge.

The team also spotted roughly 26 derelict fishing traps on the seafloor, as well as coral formations entangled by marine debris. The data collected will paint a much clearer picture of the underwater habitats and the animals and plants inhabiting them. Local scientists and managers in the U.S. Virgin Islands can then use these data sets to make informed ecosystem-based management decisions to protect, conserve and sustainably manage these marine resources.

The 20-day mission, March 18 to April 6, 2010, aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster marks the seventh year of the project and included several outreach events attended by local students, partners and political representatives.

For additional information about the mission and to read daily mission updates visit http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/products/biogeography/usvi_nps/details.aspx

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Shorter web link for sharing: http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/news/?p=1526

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