Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science are comparing several areas of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary to help Sanctuary officials differentiate changes to fish populations due to natural events, or whether the changes derive from human activities. The multi-agency research cruise runs from May 27—June 9, 2012.
The researchers gather data to compare fish communities and their habitat between a small research-only area, closed to all fishing and diving for a limited time, with the remainder of the sanctuary where hook-and-line fishing, hand lining and scuba diving are permitted.
The research area allows investigations to evaluate possible impacts from fishing on the sanctuary's natural resources by providing a zone free of human activities and impacts to habitats or populations that result from those activities. The research area also allows scientists to more accurately determine the effects of natural events (e.g., hurricanes) and cycles (e.g., droughts) on the sanctuary, according to the October 2011 Federal Register Notice.
Gray's Reef National Marine SanctuaryFinal Management Plan and Final Environmental ImpactStatement (PDF)
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Program Report for October—December 2011