NOAA completed two sampling missions in the U. S. Virgin Islands (USVI) this summer. The first mission was conducted in St. Croix from June 12-June 23, and the second in St. Thomas and St. John from July 24-August 4, 2017. The multi-organizational task force collected data concurrently on fish and benthic communities of coral reef habitats around the islands on behalf of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP). NCRMP collects biological, physical and socioeconomic monitoring throughout all U.S. coral reef jurisdictions and NCCOS and NMFS co-lead the biological monitoring component within the Atlantic basin.
NCRMP is a core component of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and the monitoring data will provide local managers and researchers information on the status and trends of environmental conditions, living reef resources and the people and processes that interact with coral reefs. Each two week mission included participation by 30-35 scientists and students from partner agencies, including the National Park Service, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the University of the Virgin Islands, the University of Puerto Rico, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In St. Croix, a total of 179 sites were monitored for fish communities, with 169 of those sites including detailed benthic community surveys. In our 3rd season of sampling in St. Thomas and St. John, 224 of our target 250 sites were sampled for fish and benthic communities combined, with 12 additional sites sampled surveyed for fish alone and 5 additional for benthics alone, for a total of 241 sites. Our EPA partner, Cheryl Hankins, was also able to collect additional samples during the mission to support a microplastic study in the waters near urbanized versus non-urbanized areas of St John.
For more information, see our project page.