We are monitoring the distribution, abundance, and size of reef fishes and macro-invertebrates and mapping habitats in the Caribbean. The work from this long-term project will help coastal managers understand what natural resources exist inside and outside the marine protected area boundaries and the condition of these resources so they can make informed marine-use and policy decisions.
Why We Care
Corals are in decline worldwide, and many of the responsible factors are man-made. Many fish species are under stress because of pollution and over-fishing. Managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) can only make sound decisions about the coral and fish areas they manage if they understand the location and abundance of the area’s resources.
What We Are Doing
Since 2000, we have been collecting field data and relating it to habitat maps and bathymetric models that can be used to predict the distribution of species and communities. The information is used to determine coral hot spots, investigate National Park Service boundaries, detect the presence and abundance of invasive lionfish, track bleaching and coral diseases, delineate essential fish habitats, assist with stock assessments of important commercial fish, and manage MPAs. By understanding where rich and diverse species hot spots are likely to occur, NCCOS can measure the efficacy of marine zoning strategies (e.g., placement of no-fishing, anchoring, or snorkeling locations) and determine which locations are most suitable for establishing MPAs.
Our specific goals are to:
- Spatially characterize and monitor the distribution, abundance, and size of both reef fishes and macro-invertebrates (e.g., conch and lobster), and diadema (sea urchin)
- Relate this information to in-situ data collected on water quality and associated habitat parameters
- Use this information to establish the knowledge base necessary for enacting management decisions in a spatial setting
- Establish and reassess the efficacy of those management decisions
- Develop standardized data collection protocols to enable quantification and comparison of trends in abundance and distribution of reef-associated species among locations.
The knowledge of the current status of fish/macro-invertebrate communities coupled with longer term monitoring will enable management efficiency to be evaluated, which is essential for establishing future management policies and actions.