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Successful First Year of NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast

Published on: 01/12/2017
Research Area(s): Marine Spatial Ecology

In 2016, NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program started a new four-year initiative to study deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems across the southeastern U.S., a region including U.S. federal waters in the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The initiative is led by the NCCOS Deep Coral team, and is a cross-line office effort that includes scientists and managers from NOS, NMFS and OAR, that aims to collect scientific information needed to manage and conserve deep-sea corals throughout the Southeast Region.

Black coral found in the deep-water habitats of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Fieldwork for the initiative commenced in August 2016 with two successful expeditions: (1) a five-day expedition led by the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary that surveyed deep-water banks in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico using ROV Mohawk, and (2) a 15-day expedition led by NMFS that surveyed deep-sea canyons off North Carolina using AUV Sentry.

The Flower Garden Banks expedition aimed to collect information needed to evaluate sanctuary expansion proposals, and included the collection of over 2,800 seafloor images, including of some species which are likely new to science. The exploration of the North Carolina canyons supported regional characterizations of canyon ecosystems, and surveyed over 70 km of seafloor through the collection of 59,000 images.

Several additional expeditions are planned in the U.S. South Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico as part of this initiative in 2017-2019.

For more information, contact Daniel Wagner.

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