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Mesophotic Habitats Are a Refuge for Large, Overfished Species in Southwest Puerto Rico

Published on: 01/22/2015
Research Area(s): Marine Spatial Ecology
Primary Contact(s): kimberly.puglise@noaa.gov

NCCOS-supported research found that commercially important fish, such as snappers and groupers, off southwest Puerto Rico are more abundant at mesophotic depths (60 -80 meters) than shallow depths (30 meters or less). The study, published in the journal Coral Reefs , suggests that mesophotic coral ecosystems serve as a refuge for heavily exploited, shallow-water reef species and are important for their conservation. Most species present at mesophotic depths off La Parguera, Puerto Rico (76 percent of 103 species) were common inhabitants of shallow reefs, indicating that connectivity does occur between shallow and mesophotic reefs.

Large fishes such as this black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, may use mesophotic depths as a refuge from fishing. Depth: 62 meters; La Parguera, Puerto Rico. (Credit Hector Ruiz, University of Puerto Rico)

Large fishes such as this black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, may use mesophotic depths as a refuge from fishing. Depth: 62 meters; La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Credit: Hector Ruiz, University of Puerto Rico.

The study is part of NCCOS'sDeep Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies program, which seeks to betterunderstand the mesophotic coral ecosystems off La Parguera, Puerto Rico, including characterizing their community composition and structure, determining their potential connectivity, and assessing their vulnerability to anthropogenic stresses.

For more information, contact Kimberly.Puglise@noaa.gov.

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