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Mapping Essential Fish Habitat in the US Caribbean to Inform MPA Management (NF-15-01-USVI, EK80)
Scientists will collect high resolution multibeam and acoustic fisheries data in mid-water depths approximately 10 to 2000 meters so as to continue to characterize seafloor habitats within all U.S. States, Territories, and Commonwealths. The objective of this project is to collect a multibeam bathymetry dataset with 100% seafloor ensonification, along with multibeam backscatter suitable for seafloor characterization. Fishery acoustics data will be collected to characterize broad-scale fish abundance, biomass, and utilization patterns, as well as to locate and document fish spawning aggregations. Multibeam data will be collected to conform to IHO Order 1 (<100m) and Order 2 (>100m) accuracy standards. The strategies developed for each survey area will take into account the minimum depths, general bathymetry, and time allotment. The delineation and identification of seafloor habitats will be assisted by the use of a moderate-depth Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The vehicle has video and frame camera capability to depths of 300 meters and will be used for transect sampling within areas mapped during this mission. Two Slocum Glider G2 will be deployed during the duration of the project to collect oceanographic data and passive fish acoustics in the study region.