Update from the Mariana Archipelago: monitoring cruise completes work in the southern islands

By Bernardo Vargas-Ángel
The NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai, seen off the coast of Anatahan, a northern island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, during a previous monitoring cruise in the Mariana Archipelago in May 2009. NOAA photo by Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

The NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai, seen off the coast of Anatahan, a northern island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, from a small boat during a previous monitoring cruise in the Mariana Archipelago in May 2009. NOAA photo by Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

On April 17, the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai departed Saipan Harbor and began Leg III of the PIFSC cruise HA-14-01 with a few more days of monitoring operations around Saipan before transiting to the island of Sarigan. With work essentially complete in the southern islands of the Mariana Archipelago, the Hi`ialakai had been in port in Saipan Harbor for a short, 3-day pause between legs of this Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) expedition. Activities to monitor coral reef ecosystems of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) began on April 5 during Leg II of this cruise and work around Guam took place on March 25–April 4, primarily during Leg I. Led by the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), this mission marks the 6th monitoring cruise in Guam and the CNMI by staff from PIFSC and partner agencies since 2003.

Around Guam, Rota, Aguijan, Tinian, and Saipan Islands, CRED scientists on March 25–April 18 conducted ecosystem surveys of fishes, benthic and coral communities, and microbes and deployed oceanographic instruments and biological installations. During Leg III, which is expected to conclude on May 6, CRED staff will conduct small-boat operations for coral reef ecosystem monitoring at the following northern islands and banks: Sarigan, Zealandia Bank, Guguan, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, Asuncion, Maug, Supply Reef, and Farallon de Pajaros (or Uracas).

On a reef off the coast of Rota Island, divers conduct belt-transect surveys of the benthos on April 8. NOAA photo by Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

On a reef off the coast of Rota Island, divers conduct a belt-transect survey of the benthos on April 8 during the PIFSC cruise HA-14-01, the 6th expedition in the Marina Archipelago since 2003 for the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, which is led by the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. NOAA photo by Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

A diver on April 13 collects digital images of reef benthos along a transect at a Climate Monitoring Station off the cost of Saipan. NOAA photo

A diver on April 13 collects digital still photographs of the reef benthos along a transect at a Climate Monitoring Station off the cost of Saipan. Such benthic images can be analyzed to characterize benthic habitat and estimate percent cover of key functional groups. NOAA photo

At Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) sites, surveys for reef fishes document species richness, abundance, and sizes, and surveys of benthic and coral communities study the percent composition of bottom-dwelling organisms in addition to the densities, sizes, and health conditions of coral colonies. During broad-scale towed-diver surveys, divers record observational data on large-bodied fishes (>50 cm total length), percent composition of the seafloor, coral stress, and conspicuous invertebrates. Studies of microbial communities document the diversity and abundance of bacteria and viruses and their interactions with coral reefs.

This mission also includes studies of the diversity of cryptic invertebrates; collection of data on water temperature, salinity, carbonate chemistry, and other physical characteristics of coral reef environments; and assessment of the potential early effects of ocean acidification on cryptobiota (e.g., small, hidden organisms) and the rates of reef carbonate deposition and coral calcification.

Researchers of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division use trays, like the one in this photo taken on April 13, to sort the cryptic reef invertebrates that they collect from autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) retrieved during this current cruise from the nearshore locations where they had been deployed in 2011 during the previous Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program expedition in the Mariana Archipelago. NOAA photo

Researchers of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division on April 13 use this tray and others to sort the cryptic reef invertebrates that they collect from the autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) retrieved during this current cruise from the nearshore locations where they had been deployed in 2011 during the previous Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program expedition in the Mariana Archipelago. NOAA photo

Thus far across the 5 southern Mariana Islands, including work on April 17, CRED researchers during this cruise have completed 66 towed-diver surveys along a combined 130 km of coastline and, at REA sites, 153 fish surveys and 62 benthic surveys. The instrumentation team deployed 4 Climate Monitoring Stations around Guam and 3 stations around Saipan, with each station containing arrays of subsurface temperature recorders (STRs), calcification accretion units (CAUs), autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS), and bioersion monitoring units (BMUs). Overall, no notable changes in the structure of the fish and benthic communities can be reported at this time for the areas surveyed at Guam or in the southern CNMI, in comparison to survey results from the previous cruise in this region in 2011. Additionally, no widespread coral bleaching or outbreaks of coral diseases or corallivorous crown-of-thorns seastars (Acanthaster planci) were observed.

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Update on PIFSC bottomfish research mission

Here’s an update on the on-going bottomfish research mission cited in our previous post.   SE1402 Progress Report_041514

Posted in Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division (FRMD), From PIFSC Director, Scientific Operations, Uncategorized

SE-14-02: Hawai‘i Deep-7 Bottomfish Research in the Maui Triangle Region Evaluates Survey Gears for Next Generation Stock Assessment

Researchers from the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) are leading an expedition to develop fishery-independent methods of assessing the abundance of deepwater bottomfish around the main Hawaiian Islands. The bottomfish population supports important commercial and recreational fisheries in Hawaii.

The research expedition is being carried out by a team of PIFSC scientists on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in collaboration with colleagues from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group (PIFG). The Sette departed her home port at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on April 5, 2014, for the study area in waters of the Maui Triangle, an ocean region delineated by the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Cooperating with the Sette will be the chartered research vessel Huki Pono and 3 PIFG cooperative research bottomfish fishing vessels. Working together, the vessels will collect information on the abundance of bottomfish in the study area using hook-and-line fishing as well as stationary and mobile stereo-underwater video camera stations.

LT Faith Knighton is leading the 15-day expedition, with Dr. Ben Richards serving as Science Advisor. The expedition objective will be to accomplish a near-simultaneous survey of deepwater bottomfish in the Maui Triangle region using 3 fishery-independent methods, or gears: an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) stereo-video camera system (deployed from the Sette), baited underwater stereo-video camera systems (or BotCam, deployed by a UHM team aboard the Huki Pono), and cooperative research hook-and-line fishing from the PIFG vessels.

The three survey gears will be intensively deployed within a stratified-random survey grid in the Maui Triangle region. Survey grids 500 m x 500 m and were chosen at random in proportion the prevalence of their habitat type in the overall survey domain and were weighted according the variation in the data from each habitat strata as sampled during prior research missions. Survey grids were selected shortly before project mobilization to best take advantage of prevailing weather conditions, proximity to ports, and patterns of fish abundance, and to mitigate impacts of the fishing operations on activities of local fishermen and management regions.

Each survey method will provide information helping to measure bottomfish abundance within the survey area and the resultant data will enable researchers to better understand variability in the measures of bottomfish abundance both within each gear as well as among the different gears and habitats.

The results of this portion of the project will be used by the PIFSC Stock Assessment Program to evaluate the potential future development of an operational, fishery-independent, non-extractive, non-lethal survey methodology to estimate size-structured abundance within the Hawaii Deep 7 Bottomfish assemblage. The fishery-independent approach can supplement the standard method presently used for measuring changes in bottomfish abundance, catch-per-unit-of-fishing-effort (CPUE) derived from commercial bottomfish hook-and-line fishery data.

SE1402 Sampling Locations_PIFSC Comparison of Fishery-Independent Sampling Methods

SE1402 Sampling Locations_PIFSC Comparison of Fishery-Independent Sampling Methods

Posted in Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division (FRMD), Scientific Operations | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Reef monitoring at Wake Island: preliminary results from fish surveys

By Dione Swanson

After departing Honolulu on March 5, the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai arrived at Wake Island on March 14. It was the first stop for PIFSC cruise HA-14-01, a Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) expedition that also recently visited Guam and is currently focused on the southern islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. At Wake Island, staff members of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) and partners conducted surveys of reef fish assemblages, coral populations, and benthic communities as well as deployed instruments and collected water samples to monitor effects of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems.

Our first 2 planned operational days on Wake Island were canceled because of poor weather conditions (strong winds and high seas). Relatively good weather returned by March 16, and we then were able to complete 4.5 days of small-boat operations before leaving for Guam on March 20. Over the course of our time at Wake Island, scientists accomplished the following field activities during a combined 229 dives: reef fish surveys at 45 Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) sites; benthic surveys at 20 REA sites; collection of 12 water samples and 1 benthic sample for analysis of microbial communities; retrieval of 7 subsurface temperature recorders (STRs), 6 autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMs), 15 calcification accretion units (CAUs), and 1 sea-surface temperature (SST) buoy; installation of 4 National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan climate stations—each of which includes 3 ARMs, 5 CAUs, 5 bioerosion monitoring units, and 3 STRs; and collection of 20 water samples for analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon; and completion of 11 shallow-water conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) casts.

Highlights of our research dives at Wake Island included incredible water visibility (>45 m), high coral cover that consisted of abundant large colonies with low partial mortality, overall low prevalence of coral disease and bleaching, and large patches of soft corals. There were only a few sightings of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) and Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus).

Preliminary results from the surveys of reef fishes conducted by scuba divers at Wake Island (depth range: 0–30 m) during this cruise are provided in the below fish monitoring brief, which was issued on March 25 as PIFSC Data Report DR-14-007 (click here, to download a PDF file of this report). Wake Island is 1 of 7 islands, atolls, and reefs that make up the Pacific Remote Island Areas and, under the jurisdiction of the United States, are protected as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program
Fish monitoring brief: Pacific Remote Island Areas 2014

By Adel Heenan

About this summary brief

The purpose of this document is to outline the most recent survey efforts conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center as part of the long-term monitoring program known as the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP). More detailed survey results will be available in a forthcoming annual status report.

Sampling effort

  • Ecological monitoring took place in the Pacific Remote Island Areas from March 16 2014 to March20 2014.
  • Data were collected at 45 sites. Surveys were conducted at Wake Island.
  • At each site, the fish assemblage was surveyed by underwater visual census and the benthic community was assessed.

Overview of data collected

Primary consumers include herbivores (which eat plants) and detritivores (which bottom feed on detritus), and secondary consumers are largely omnivores (which mostly eat a variety of fishes and invertebrates) and invertivores (which eat invertebrates).

Figure 1. Mean total fish biomass at sites surveyed.

Figure 1. Mean total fish biomass at sites surveyed.

 

Figure 2. Mean hard coral cover at sites surveyed.

Figure 2. Mean hard coral cover at sites surveyed.

Figure 3. Mean consumer group fish biomass (± standard error). Primary consumers are herbivores and detritivores, and secondary consumers are omnivores and invertivores.

Figure 3. Mean consumer group fish biomass (± standard error). Primary consumers are herbivores and detritivores, and secondary consumers are omnivores and invertivores.

Figure 4. Mean fish biomass per size class (± standard error). Fish measured by total length (TL) in centimeters (cm).

Figure 4. Mean fish biomass per size class (± standard error). Fish measured by total length (TL) in centimeters (cm).

 

Spatial sample design

Survey site locations are randomly selected using a depth-stratified design. During cruise planning and the cruise itself, logistic and weather conditions factor into the allocation of monitoring effort around sectors of each island or atoll. The geographic coordinates of sample sites are then randomly drawn from a map of the area of target habitat per study area. The target habitat is hard-bottom reef, the study area is typically an island or atoll, or in the case of larger islands, sectors per island, and the depth strata are shallow (0–6 m), mid (6–18 m), and deep (18–30 m).

Sampling methods

A pair of divers surveys the fish assemblage at each site using a stationary-point-count method (Fig. 5). Each diver identifies, enumerates, and estimates the total length of fishes within a visually estimated 15-m-diameter cylinder with the diver stationed in the center.

These data are used to calculate fish biomass per unit area (g m-2) for each species. Mean biomass estimates per island are calculated by weighting averages by the area per strata. Island-scale estimates presented here represent only the areas surveyed during this cruise. For gaps or areas not surveyed during this cruise, data from this and other survey efforts will generally be pooled to improve island-scale estimates.

Each diver also conducts a rapid visual assessment of reef composition, by estimating the percentage cover of major benthic functional groups (encrusting algae, fleshy macroalgae, hard corals, turf algae and soft corals) in each cylinder. Divers also estimate the complexity of the surface of the reef structure, and they take photos along a transect at each site that are archived to allow for future analysis.

Figure 5. Method used to monitor fish assemblage and benthic communities at the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) sites.

Figure 5. Method used to monitor fish assemblage and benthic communities at the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) sites.

About the monitoring program

Pacific RAMP forms a key part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), providing integrated, consistent, and comparable data across U.S. Pacific islands and atolls. CRCP monitoring efforts have these aims:

  • Document the status of reef species of ecological and economic importance
  • Track and assess changes in reef communities in response to environmental stressors or human activities
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of specific management strategies and identify actions for future and adaptive responses

In addition to the fish community surveys outlined here, Pacific RAMP efforts include interdisciplinary monitoring of oceanographic conditions, coral reef habitat assessments and mapping. Most data are available upon request.

For more information

Coral Reef Conservation Program: http://coralreef.noaa.gov

Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/

CRED publications: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/pubs/credpub.php

CRED fish team: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cred/fish.php

Fish team lead and fish survey data requests: ivor.williams@noaa.gov

 

 

Posted in Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ultraviolet lights may keep sea turtles from becoming bycatch

UV LED lightstick

Battery powered UV LED lightsticks are being used to illuminate gillnets which has been shown to reduce the interaction rates with sea turtles.

The November issue of Scientific American features PIFSC/JIMAR fishery researcher, John Wang, and his paper published in Biology Letters on the use of ultraviolet (UV) illumination to reduce sea turtle bycatch. Wang and collaborators installed UV light emitting diodes (LEDs) on gill nets to find out if they could prevent sea turtles from becoming entangled. Sea turtles caught in nets often are killed or injured. The encounter is also a costly one for the fishermen whose net is damaged by the entanglement. This novel approach to keeping turtles away from the nets could become cost-effective and a win-win for all especially if the lights can both repel turtles and attract target species.

In many coastal gillnet fisheries throughout the world sea turtles are inadvertently caught and often drown because they are unable to reach the surface for air.

In many coastal gillnet fisheries throughout the world sea turtles are inadvertently caught and often drown because they are unable to reach the surface for air.

Wang’s research has shown great promise so far. In the nets equipped with the UV LEDs, there was about a 40% reduction in sea turtle bycatch. In addition, the use of UV LEDs is more affordable for fishermen as the new LED technology costs less.

The decline in bycatch combined with comparable fish catches in the LED-equipped nets and a decrease in turtle-damaged equipment make the idea something fishermen should consider. During the next year or so, Wang plans to test LEDs emanating different wavelengths to both attract fish while at the same time deterring sea turtles. It’s a prospect that excites scientists, conservationists and fishermen, alike.

By collaborating with Mexican fishermen, Dr. Wang and his team have been able to test strategies that may be useful in reducing unwanted sea turtle interactions with gillnets.

By collaborating with Mexican fishermen, Dr. Wang and his team have been able to test strategies that may be useful in reducing unwanted sea turtle interactions with gillnets.

Fishermen in small fishing communities along the Baja California coast have been critical collaborators in testing the use of net illumination as a strategy to reduce sea turtle bycatch.

Fishermen in small fishing communities along the Baja California coast have been critical collaborators in testing the use of net illumination as a strategy to reduce sea turtle bycatch.

Posted in Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division (FRMD) | 1 Comment

Cetacean Forage Survey Underway off the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaiʻi

Researchers aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette departed Ford Island, Pearl Harbor 17 March 2014 to conduct a cetacean forage survey in waters around the NOAA Kona Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) region off the western coast of the island of Hawaiʻi. The Sette will serve as a research base for a team of scientist from the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) working in collaboration with colleagues from the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Marine Biology Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. The designation of this research project is SE1401.

During this 12-day research expedition, the research team, under the leadership of Dr. Donald R. Kobayashi from the PIFSC Ecosystems and Oceanography Division, will be working on two objectives to better understand the dynamics of this unique ecosystem. First, a standard Kona IEA oceanographic and active acoustics survey will be completed to extend the time series of this important survey initiated in 2011 and continued in 2013. This survey is focused on a set of 6 stations and 7 transect legs (see Figure). Second, a deep nearshore “hotspot” of cetacean foraging will be investigated by a variety of methodologies. Previous surveys have delineated a large daytime and nighttime signal at 400-600m depth nearshore using the Simrad EK60 acoustic sounder at a frequency of 70 kHz, suggesting a forage layer there where organisms are in relatively high abundance. Tagged cetaceans have been recorded feeding within this layer as well as both slightly above and below the layer, leading to many questions about the faunal composition of the layer and its relationship to key cetacean forage such as the large cephalopods known to inhabit this region. There are presently many questions about the identification, distribution, and abundance of the large cephalopod fauna in this region. To address this data gap, the SE1401 scientific field party will use a variety of oceanographic survey instruments and methods to investigate the forage layer and the fauna in surrounding waters, including active acoustic surveys; a marine mammal observing (MMO) team; a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) deployed from the Sette with both a navigational real-time camera and a recording stereo video camera system; a BlueView sonar imaging unit attached to the ROV; a Didson sonar imaging unit lowered on a CTD rosette; GoPro cameras; baited deep handlining and squid-jigging; and a Cobb midwater trawl. Additional passive acoustic devices for marine mammal detection include a small-boat deployed hydrophone and ship-deployed sonobuoys. This PIFSC project is very cross-divisional with active participation of staff and equipment from EOD, FRMD, PSD, and SciOps; as well as much participation from various University of Hawaii programs, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

The active acoustics team is staffed by Adrienne Copeland (lead), Jessica Chen, and Aimee Hoover, and will be rotating to have a continuous around-the-clock operation. The MMO/hydrophone/sonobuoy team is staffed by Ali Bayless (lead), “Gadea” Maria Perez-Andujar Cavestany, and Florybeth La Valle, and will be working primarily during the daytime hours. The ROV team is staffed by Eric Mooney (lead), Jeff Anderson, and Patrick Murphy, and will be doing work at both daytime and nighttime until timing of the deep trawls and deep ROV deployments is better understood. The CTD/Didson/GoPro team is staffed by Giacomo Giorli (lead), Suz Acord, and Beth Lumsden, and will be working opportunistically attempting to acquire separate data for morning, daytime, evening, and nighttime. The trawling/jigging/handlining team is staffed by Melanie Abecassis (lead), Justin Kantor, Kevin Lewand, and William Truong, and will be working primarily at nighttime hours. Kantor and Lewand are also involved in an ancillary project to capture a live cookie-cutter shark for transport to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Cavestany is also involved in an ancillary project to survey crocodile sharks by deep handline.

In addition to the multi-faceted survey described above, the research team will carry out other ancillary projects including deployment/recovery of 2 High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs) used to characterize cetacean identification, distribution, and abundance off Jaggar Seamount and near Kona, Hawaii.

The initial web blurb is http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cruise/se1401.php

Teacher at Sea blog is http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/2014/acord.html

Our unofficial daily blog (by TAS Suz) is http://dkobayas.wordpress.com/

March 23 update: We have completed most of our IEA acoustic transects and much of our CTD stations. The remainder of the cruise will more heavily focus on ROV, trawling, jigging, handlining but with some acoustic transects, MMO, and CTD stations to be undertaken. Weather holding. Equipment working. Morale high. Deep trawl tonight, deep ROV tomorrow, fingers crossed…

SE1401_map

Operational area of the research expedition in the Kona IEA region. The star symbols A-F indicate locations of the standard Kona IEA grid stations, and circle symbols H1 and H2 indicate locations of HARP deployments and/or recoveries. Some targeted research operations will focus on the nearshore stations (A & C) where deep cetacean foraging “hot spots” have been characterized previously.

Posted in Ecosystems and Oceanography Division (EOD), Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division (FRMD), Protected Species Division (PSD), Scientific Operations