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September 7-13, 2010
aboard the R/V MANTA


The full group of researchers standing on the deck of the boat
The research group (left to right): Rami Reed/crew, Randy Clark/NCCOS, Darrell Walker/Captain, Kim Edwards/NCCOS, Don Field/NCCOS, Mike Shetler/Mate, Dennis Cooley/crew, Chris Taylor/NCCOS, Emma Hickerson/FGBNMS (kneeling), Jenny VanderPluym/NCCOS, Josh Voss/HBOI, Laurie Bauer/NCCOS, Marissa Nuttall/FGBNMS, Jenny Waddell/CRCP. Photo: FGBNMS

R/V Manta crew
Sanctuary research team
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute/Florida Atlantic University (HBOI/FAU)
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP)
National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)


The primary purpose of this trip was to conduct fish and benthic surveys at East and West Flower Garden Banks in preparation for a proposed research area recommended by the 2012 Management Plan through the Management Plan Review process.

Data Collection

Researchers conducted both benthic habitat and fish surveys at randomly selected locations across the reef, including parts of the reef rarely visited.  They also conducted a reconnaissance dive at HIA389A, a gas production platform within sanctuary boundaries at East Flower Garden Bank.

Diver using a quadrat to assess benthic habitat
Laurie Bauer/NCCOS quantifies the benthic cover within
a one meter quadrat along a 25 meter transect

Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

In addition, we collected routine water samples as part of the long-term monitoring program.


Water temperature was 88F (31F) at depth.


The beginning of a severe bleaching event was documented at East and West Flower Garden Banks.  Bleaching species included Millepora alcicornis, Montastraea cavernosa, Siderastraea siderea, and Orbicella (Montastraea) franksi.

A colorful sea slug next to a lettuce coral on the reef
A painted elysia (nudibranch) next to an Agaricia coral
Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

Several manta rays were encountered and photographed for addition to the catalog.

Top view of a manta ray swimming over a reef at some distance below
A manta ray cruises over the reef below
Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

On the return trip, we also made a dive at Stetson Bank. Visual observations suggested 99% of the fire coral (Millepora alcicornis) was bleached

A red fish and a black sea urchin stand out against the stark white of bleached coral on a reef.
Bleached fire coral provide a stark backdrop to a squirrelfish and long-spined sea urchin. Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

Mardi Gras wrasse (Halichoeres bureki)  were observed at both West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank.

A group of spadefish with two fish eating a moon jelly
Atlantic spadefish feed on a moon jelly at Stetson Bank
Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

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There was very little benthic cover on the 60’ peak, but was quite lush benthic cover at the 80’ peak – dominated by sponges.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
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