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August 22-26, 2010
aboard the R/V MANTA

The purpose of this expedition was to continue data collection as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.


View of the R/V Manta from the perspective of a diver at the surface of the water.
The R/V MANTA as seen by divers returning to the vessel. Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

R/V Manta crew
Sanctuary research team
Texas A&M Galveston AAUS divers


During this effort we conducted fish and benthic surveys at Sonnier and Stetson Banks.

At Sonnier Bank there was very little benthic cover on the 60 ft (18 m) deep peak, but quite lush benthic cover, dominated by sponges, at the 80 ft (24 m) deep peak.

Diver with clipboard taking note of bottom habitat using a grid laid on the seafloor
A TAMUG diver records data about the bottom habitat at the shallower peak of Sonnier Bank. Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

We also retrieved the semi-permeable membrane devices (SPMDs), deployed new SPMDs, and collected sediment samples at both banks.


There was a very hazy low visibility layer at the top 30 ft (9 m) of water, with only about 10 ft (3 m) visibility. Salinity in this layer was 28.6 ppt.  Water temperature at Sonnier was 84F (29C) on the surface and 79F (26C) at the bottom.

At Stetson Bank the water temperature was 86F (30C) on the bottom.


When we arrived at Sonnier Bank, a longline fishing vessel was present with gear in the water.

School of silver fish with flattened-looking foreheads.
A school of lookdowns (Selene vomer) swims
above the reef at Sonnier Bank

Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

Underwater, divers had close encounters with a couple of sandbar sharks and a bottlenose dolphin. We also photographed a couple of invasive cup coral colonies (Tubastraea coccinea) on the 80 ft (24 m) peak. 

Large orange polyps of cup coral
Orange cup coral, an invasive species from the Pacific, is
beginning to establish itself at Sonnier Bank

Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

At Stetson Bank, fire corals (Millepora alcicornis) were beginning to bleach as a result of high water temperatures.

Small black and white striped fish in a group near the bottom
A little school of juvenile cubbyu (Pareques umbrosus)
gathered at Stetson Bank.
Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS

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Turtle Release

During this trip a rehabilitated hawksbill sea turtle was released at Sonnier Bank. This animal was originally stranded on a Texas beach entangled in an onion sack, then rehabilitated at the NOAA Fisheries facility in Galveston.

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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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