Reef and Fishery Assessment of Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge

On April 23, 2009 scientists from the NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami Florida (SEFSC) departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Their destination: the Navassa National Wildlife Refuge. Along with the NOAA scientists are researchers from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM/RSMAS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Director of the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM), an NGO based in Haiti.
This work is funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Last Stand?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, all divers have been keeping a sharp lookout for Staghorn coral, a threatened coral that has become tragically rare on Navassa's reefs. One small colony was spotted early on by Jack during his fish count. Staghorn coral can grow in shallow habitats along with its sibling Elkhorn coral but we have never seen it in the shallower part, only on the deeper (80-100ft deep) patch reefs. Our group has done more than 160 dives on this trip and we have found 4 small sprigs of staghorn coral. I joined the hunt focused only on finding this coral rather than other tasks so I am able to cover a relatively large portion of the patch reef when I tag along and that is how I found this small 5ft x 2ft stand of staghorn coral. Unfortunately it was mostly dead due to the three spot damselfish that set up his algae farm on the branches (click to bigify and you may see him in the dead part of the colony). This staghorn sighting was on a deep patch reef built almost entirely of HUGE mounds of now dead finger coral (the purple nubby stuff in the left side background is live finger coral). My guess is that most of it has died within the last 10 years so it was a very sad sight!
Today is our last day of diving and I am going to do 2 deep dives in the morning and will hopefully find more. Sadly this small (ok, very small) 'stand' of staghorn coral may be the last! So sad.... Dana

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