Home > Explore Data & Reports > Science Plan for the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI): 2016-2019


Wagner, D., P.J. Etnoyer, J. Schull, A.W. David, M.S. Nizinski, E.L. Hickerson, T.A. Battista, A.N. Netburn, S.L. Harter, G.P. Schmahl, H.M. Coleman, and T.F. Hourigan. 2017. Science Plan for the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative (SEDCI): 2016-2019. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 230. Charleston, SC. 96 pp. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5/TM-NOS-NCCOS-230

Data/Report Type:

NOAA Technical Memorandum


In 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP) following the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The goal of the DSCRTP is to provide scientific information needed to manage, conserve and protect deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems throughout the United States (NOAA 2008; Hourigan 2009). The Program is guided by the NOAA Strategic Plan for Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems and aims to (1) support NOAA's role in managing fishing impacts by addressing threats to deep-sea coral ecosystems, (2) support conservation of deep-sea ecosystems in national marine sanctuaries, and (3) integrate expertise and resources across NOAA (NOAA 2010). The DSCRTP works in collaboration with fishery management councils, national marine sanctuaries, other federal agencies, and academic partners to support studies that analyze information on (1) deep-sea coral ecosystems, (2) fishing intensity in areas that impact deep-sea corals, and (3) bycatch of corals and sponges in deepwater fisheries (NOAA 2010). In addition to these studies, the DSCRTP supports multi-year fieldwork initiatives in priority regions centered on collecting new information that is relevant to the management and conservation of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems. Since its inception, the DSCRTP has funded targeted fieldwork initiatives in the U.S. South Atlantic (2009-2011), the West Coast (2010-2012), Alaska (2012-2014), the Northeast (2013- 2015), and the U.S. Pacific Islands (2015-2017). For clarification, deep-sea corals, also known as cold-water corals, are defined as azooxanthellate (heterotrophic) corals generally found at depths below 50 m (Cairns 2007; NOAA 2010). As a result of lacking photosynthetic zooxanthellae, deep-sea corals are found in darker and typically deeper depths than light-dependent (autotrophic) mesophotic corals. The latter are typically found at depths between 30-50 m, but may extend to depths as deep as 150 m in some locations with high water clarity (Puglise et al. 2009; Kahng et al. 2010). Thus, while mesophotic and deep-water coral ecosystems may be found at overlapping depths, they can be differentiated by whether they are dominated by corals that depend on photosynthetic zooxanthellae. In this regard, DSCRTP-funded research focuses on different coral ecosystems than those supported by other NOAA efforts, such as the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), which focuses on shallow-water coral reefs (<30 m), or research efforts on mesophotic coral ecosystems supported by various NOAA offices including the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

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