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U.S. SOUTH ATLANTIC MARINE PROTECTED AREA SURVEY  

U.S. South Atlantic Marine Protected Area Survey

BY LYNDA F. RYSAVY | May 30, 2019

FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor John Reed and Stephanie Farrington, members of the Cooperative Institute of Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) will be embarking on a two-week week cruise in June on the NOAA Ship Pisces to study the shelf-edge marine protected areas (MPAs) off the southeastern U.S. 

The study is a continuation of a monitoring program of these MPAs which began in 2004, five years before closure. 

This cruise in year eight of nine, is in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries to map and document the health and diversity of these deep-water reefs at depths of 200 to 600 feet. 

Six marine protected areas: North Florida, Georgia, Edisto, Northern South Carolina, Snowy Wreck, and the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef as well the Oculina Experimental Closed Area (OECA) and the Oculina Habitat Area of Particular Concern (OHAPC) off eastern Florida will be surveyed with a remotely operated vehicle from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Also, the crew will conduct high-resolution multibeam echosounder surveys at night for each MPA. The MPAs were implemented to protect five species of grouper and two species of tilefish, all of which are long-lived, late-maturing species.

This survey is the most comprehensive, long term and geographically dispersed of any MPAs and will provide essential data for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in developing fishery management plans and regulations.