For nine years, Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor John Reed, and Biological Scientist Stephanie Farrington have conducted cruises to various deepwater Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
The missions aim to document and characterize the benthic habitats, benthic biota, and fish populations within and adjacent to these shelf-edge MPAs along the southeastern U.S. from North Carolina to South Florida.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) established eight deepwater Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the outer continental shelf off the southeastern U.S. in February 2009 and the Oculina Habitat Area of Particular Concern (OHPAC) in 1984.
The data collected establishes baseline information to be referenced and compared to future research cruises to identify the long-term health and status of these important ecosystems. The data is being made available to the SAFMC, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA DSCRTP, NOAA CRCP, NOAA Mesophotic Reef Ecosystem Program, and NOAA Marine Sanctuaries to assist management on these habitats and key species.
The research is funded through the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC).
UNCW Mohawk ROV highlights from the 2019 cruise observing assorted Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off the southern Atlantic coast.