Research Projects-Benthic Resources (ROV) Group

Primary Research Activities

The primary task of the Benthic Resources (ROV) Program is to monitor the abundance of the endangered white abalone. This task has been accomplished using high-resolution multibeam bathymetry and visual surveys using a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV. The Benthic Resources group has also worked closely with the Advanced Survey Technologies (AST) Group to develop the Collaborative Optically-assisted Acoustic Survey Technique (COAST) for surveying rockfish over untrawlable sea floor. Application oft his technique in the Southern California Bight has provided a baseline to better understand the effects of newly created Marine Protected Areas in Southern California as fishing effort is moved from one area to another.

Monitoring benthic and near benthic resources:
NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to the stewardship of living marine resources through science-based conservation and management, and the promotion of healthy ecosystems. Saving and recovering endangered species is a critical task of our stewardship. White abalone, Haliotis sorenseni, became listed as endangered under ESA in 2001. Since then, the SWFSC has monitored white abalone populations in both U.S. and Mexican waters. We have also played a key role in formulating the recovery plan for white abalone and the status review team for the endangered black abalone, Haliotis cracherodii.

Survey technology development:
Stock assessments of demersal species that inhabit untrawlable seafloor habitats (e.g. rockfishes , genus Sebastes) is a difficult task for resource managers. Acoustic surveys can quantify fish biomass in and over untrawlable habitat, but species identification remains problematic. Maps of acoustic survey data permits adaptive sampling by the ROV pilots to target critical target densities. These visual surveys allows for the species-level identification of fishes on or near the bottom, but also in the water column. Since fish schools often change position relative to the seabed with changes in tide and daylight, the ROV can relocate the schools using the onboard sonar.

Improving species identification:
The digital still camera on the ROV provides detailed images that facilitate the use of traditional fish keys because detailed characters can be observed. Thus visual identifications can be confirmed without the collection of voucher specimens.

Additional Research Activities

Surveys of deep-water corals:
Our Benthic Resources Group recently (April 2010) participated in a collaborative deep-water coral expedition in the southeast Atlantic aboard the NOAA Ship FSV Pisces. These corals build up complex high-relief mounds in deep water (350-900 m) and consist of living, dead and fossil corals and coral rubble that provide important habitat and feeding grounds for a diversity of marine life including wreckfish, golden crab and royal red shrimp. Several of these photos are being used to describe a new species of fishes, while others are being used to improve the description of species of fishes and invertebrates that are rarely observed in the wild. Click here to view some of these photos and ‘fly-along’ with the researchers.

Documenting benthic marine debris:
Marine debris comes in a variety of forms (from discarded soda bottles to derelict fishing gear). In addition to being unsightly, marine debris can have negative impacts on marine habitats and sea life. For this reason, the documentation and removal of marine debris has become a priority for groups like NOAA's Marine Debris Program. Our Benthic Resources Group has identified numerous instances of marine debris throughout southern California, and has made these observations available on the web using Google Earth (free browser plug-in required). This work compliments ongoing work to document marine debris in deepwater benthic habitats throughout CA by NOAA SWFSC's Habitat Ecology Team in Santa Cruz, CA. Check out the short video that documents their research here.

Last modified: 12/24/2014