Deep-sea corals in Southern California are diverse and abundant but subject to multiple stressors, including bottom-contact ﬁsheries using mobile and ﬁxed gear. There is a need for more information on the distribution of these taxa in relation to the distribution of demersal ﬁshing effort, and the distribution of marine protected areas, in order to improve spatial planning. There are many marine managed areas in Southern California, including essential ﬁsh habitat (EFH) areas, conservation areas, and a national marine sanctuary, but speciﬁc areas of overlap between bottom ﬁshing and benthic epifauna are poorly known. Groundﬁsh surveys were conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service using a remotely operated vehicle throughout Southern California between 2003 and 2011 to document abundance and distribution of deep-water rockﬁsh and ﬂatﬁsh to a depth of 500 m. Corals and sponges were also common in these images, providing an opportunity to examine these communities. Analyses of 34,792 still images revealed abundance and diversity of coral and sponge taxa, as well as frequency of ﬁshing debris. The occurrence data were overlaid in a geographic information system with landings data for deep-water (>50 m) demersal ﬁsheries to identify areas of spatial overlap. Corals or sponges were observed in 23% of images. A total of 15 coral genera and six sponge morphotypes were identiﬁed. A total of 70 species codes were targeted by deep-water demersal ﬁsheries operating below 50 m for years 2007–2011. A novel priority-setting algorithm was developed to identify areas of high richness, abundance, and ﬁshing intensity (RAFi). Several highly-ranked areas were already protected as EFH (Footprint, Piggy Bank). Other highly-ranked sites (West Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, 9-Mile Bank, Santa Rosa Flats)were encompassed by transient gear restrictions, such as Rockﬁsh conservation areas, but are now recommended for permanent protection by the Paciﬁc Fishery Management Council.
USA - Continental Pacific Ocean
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)