Mapping, habitat characterization, and fish surveys of the deep-water Oculina coral reef Marine Protected Area: a review of historical and current research

  • John K. Reed
  • Andrew N. Shepard
  • Christopher C. Koenig
  • Kathryn M. Scanlon
  • R. Grant GilmoreJr.
Part of the Erlangen Earth Conference Series book series (ERLANGEN)


Deep-water Oculina coral reefs, which are similar in structure and development to deep-water Lophelia reefs, stretch 167 km (90 nm) at depths of 60–100 m along the eastern Florida shelf of the United States. These consist of numerous pinnacles and ridges, 3–35 m in height, that are capped with thickets of living and dead coral, Oculina varicosa. Extensive areas of dead Oculina rubble are due in part to human impacts (e.g., fish and shrimp trawling, scallop dredging, anchoring, bottom longlines, and depth charges) but also may be due in part to natural processes such as bioerosion, disease, or global warming. In the 1970s, the reefs were teeming with fish. By the early 1990s, both commercial and recreational fisheries had taken a toll on the reefs, especially on the coral habitat and populations of grouper and snapper. In 1984, 315 km2 (92 nm2) was designated the Oculina Habitat of Particular Concern (OHAPC), prohibiting trawling, dredging, bottom longlines and anchoring, and establishing the first deep-sea coral marine protected area in the world. In 2000, the Oculina Marine Protected Area (MPA) was expanded to 1029 km2 (300 nm2). Despite these protective measures, manned submersible and ROV observations in the Oculina MPA between 1995 and 2003 suggest that portions of the coral habitat have been reduced to rubble since the 1970s, grouper spawning aggregations may be absent, and illegal trawling continues. This paper is a review of the results of the mapping, habitat characterization, and fish surveys from the early historical studies (1960–1980s) to the more recent surveys (1995–2003).


Oculina Lophelia deep-water coral reef Marine Protected Area 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • John K. Reed
    • 1
  • Andrew N. Shepard
    • 2
  • Christopher C. Koenig
    • 3
  • Kathryn M. Scanlon
    • 4
  • R. Grant GilmoreJr.
    • 5
  1. 1.Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstitutionFort PierceUSA
  2. 2.National Undersea Research CenterUniversity of North CarolinaWilmingtonUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Fishery Resource Ecology (FSU/NMFS)Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Geological SurveyWoods HoleUSA
  5. 5.Estuarine, Coastal, and Ocean Sciences, Inc.Vero BeachUSA

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