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WATER QUALITY CRUISE
Two-toned blue dashed line

March 24-27, 2012
aboard the R/V MANTA

Participants

R/V Manta crew
Sanctuary research team

Overview

The sanctuary research team made a quick trip out to survey the biota of the gas production platform HI-A-389A at East Flower Garden Bank, collect water samples, and change out water quality instruments at all three sanctuary banks.

Platform Survey

Since production platform HIA389A will be decommissioned within the next year or so, sanctuary staff took this opportunity to survey the types of wildlife living there.

Hydroids and sponges growing in profusion on the diagonal cross beam of a gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hydroids and sponges cover most of this diagonal crossbeam of the platform. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Two different species of cup coral are plentiful on the crossbeams of a gas production platform.
In some sections of the platform, invasive cup coral (Tubastraea sp) is even more prevalent than the hydroids and sponges. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

A variety of tropical fishes, hydroids, cup coral and sponges on the crossbeam of a platform.
Creolefish, brown chromis, Spanish hogfish, and blue tang gather around a sponge colony on the crossbeam. Small colonies of invasive cup coral surround the sponge.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Sponges, hydroids, a fireworm, and various other invertebrates cover every square inch of a platform crossbeam.
Invertebrates cover every square inch of available space on the platform crossbeams. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Black coral, Plumapathes pennacea, growing on a gas platform.
Even black coral, Plumapathes pennacea, is growing on the platform at diveable depths. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Queen angelfish surrounded by other tropical fish under a gas production platform.
A queen angelfish, Spanish hogfish, reef butterflyfish and blue tang (juvenile) swim near a large sponge and several colonies of invasive Tubastraea. Photos: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Orange cup coral colonies dominate this section of a platform crossbeam.
Invasive cup coral (Tubastraea sp.) is the dominant hard coral species on this platform and many others in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Water Quality

The research team deployed a sampling carousel in several areas to collect water temperature and salinity profiles, as well as water samples at specific depths.

Two women use poles with hooks to pull a sampling carousel onto the deck of a boat.
Michelle Johnston and Emma Hickerson pull the sampling carousel back onto the deck of R/V MANTA.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Three people collecting water from a sampling carousel into small plastic bottles.
Michelle Johnston, Ryan Eckert and John Embesi collect water samples from the carousel. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Seabird water quality instruments were also retrieved, downloaded, and replaced at each bank. These instruments collect water temperature and salinity data year round.

A Seabird water quality instrument attached to an old railway wheel on the sea floor.
A Seabird water quality instrument is deployed on the reef crest of each bank at about 89 feet (27 meters).
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Divers changing out monitoring equipment in the sanctuary.
Each Seabird, like this one at West Flower Garden Bank, is retrieved at least quarterly then replaced with another
Seabird that has been cleaned and recalibrated.

Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

A Seabird instrument lies on the counter of the wet lab next to a computer.
A researcher downloads data from a Seabird after it is retrieved. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

A man wearing a bright yellow,  inflated lifevest on the deck of a boat.OOPS! This is what happens when a life vest accidentally inflates on deck. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Stetson Bank

Algae and sponge cover at Stetson Bank was quite extensive. There seems to be less coral these days.

An outcrop at Stetson Bank covered in green leafy algae and a variety of sponges.
An outcrop covered in algae and sponges at Stetson Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Two fish gard a patch of eggs attached to the reef.
Two sergeant majors guard a nest of eggs on the reef at Stetson Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Creolefish and rock hinds gathered on a section of reef.
Creolefish and rock hinds were quite prevalent on the reef. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Spiny lobsters peeking out from a ledge at Stetson Bank.
Spiny lobsters in their usual places at Stetson Bank.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

A school of gray snapper swimming above a reef.
Gray snapper schooling at Stetson Bank.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

A Spanish hogfish swimming by bright orange sponges.
A Spanish hogfish swims by brightly colored sponges at Stetson Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Conditions

Beautiful conditions - flat calm seas, 71F (22C) water temperature, very little current, at least 80 foot (24 meter) visibility.

Sightings

Highlights were the sharks - silkies, hammerheads, tiger, caribbean reef, and sandbar.

Tiger shark at dusk.
A tiger shark buzzed G.P. Schmahl at West Flower Garden Bank during a dusk dive. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

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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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