Canyons as Marine Protected Areas
Submarine canyons can contain the most productive habitats in the deep sea and may enhance local and regional species diversity, including those vulnerable to anthropogenic activities. Understanding the location and diversity of deep-sea coral ecosystems in canyons along the U.S. east coast is essential to understating the fate of this productivity in fisheries systems and their management. Using recently collected fine-scale bathymetry data and previously collected seafloor images containing deep-sea corals, we are characterizing deep-sea coral ecosystems in the northeast United States canyons.
We are providing these data, through our ongoing collaborations, to the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regional Fisheries Management Councils and to date, these data have been pivotal for the development and design of the largest Marine Protected area in North America (see map of designated areas). Results of our integrated geo-referenced image and sample analysis of coral, sponge, and fish habitats are also being provided for inclusion in the National Deep-Sea Coral (DSCRTP) database.