A team of NOAA divers supporting NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) recently completed a survey of fish and benthic habitats offshore of Salinas, Puerto Rico. For this mission, from November 13 to 16th, 2023, NOAA coral scientists assessed coral reefs at 21 sites in the southeast region of Puerto Rico. This was the final Caribbean mission for the 2023 NCRMP field season, completing surveys in the larger U.S. Caribbean and including reefs in Puerto Rico (250 sites total for 2023) and in the U.S. Virgin Islands (550 sites total for 2023).
The intent of NCRMP missions is to assess and monitor coral health as well as climate-related threats to these invaluable ecosystems. Throughout the most recent Salinas-based mission, the team observed extensive coral bleaching at each of the 21 sites, due to a current marine heatwave affecting the entirety of the Caribbean. This monitoring data will provide information to managers and scientists on the status and trends of environmental conditions, living reef resources, and the people and processes that interact with coral reefs.
As part of NCRMP, NCCOS scientists work with scientists from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center and many local partners to gather data on reef fish, coral populations, and benthic communities in the U.S. Caribbean, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. NCRMP uses a standard framework for assessing and monitoring the coral reef ecosystems and for the data collection process to ensure consistency within and between datasets. Scientists use this uniform method at all Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico coral jurisdictions.
This 2023 sample season marks 10 years of this project to implement biological (fish and coral communities), socioeconomic, and climatological monitoring for NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, which is funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. Visit the new National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s Visualization Tool to see or download the data.
NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program recently released their 2022 National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Biological Monitoring Summaries for Florida and Flower Garden Banks. Summary reports for the 2023 Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands monitoring will be available in 2024.
Visit the project webpage for details on this ongoing project.