Greater Amberjack in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
This project will use integrated acoustic/camera approaches to quantify the distribution of greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) on uncharacterized bottom, natural banks, and artificial reefs in the western Gulf of Mexico, with efforts focused on mid and outer shelf locations from Matagorda Bay to the Texas-Mexico border.
Benthic habitat in the western Gulf of Mexico is dominated by large areas of uncharacterized bottom that account for most of the seabed on the continental shelf. Recent acoustic surveys of uncharacterized bottom in the western Gulf of Mexico indicated that fish occurrence and density are patchy across this habitat and concentrated in areas with relief anomalies or areas of the bottom where the seabed is raised forming areas of topographic complexity.
A complex network of natural banks (reefs) exists on the outer shelf of the western Gulf of Mexico that extend from south Texas to the Mississippi River delta, including several banks in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). These natural banks provide critical hard bottom habitat for a variety of reef-dependent fishes, including greater amberjack and other top predators that aggregate over these unique habitats for spawning and/or foraging.
Standing platforms, Rigs-to-Reefs structures, and ships comprise the vast majority of known artificial reef habitat in the western Gulf of Mexico. These structures provide important habitat for a diverse reef fish community that includes greater amberjack and a variety of other federally managed species.
Scientific objectives include:
- Determine abundance/size of greater amberjack on uncharacterized bottom, natural banks, and artificial reefs in our region using an EK-80 echosounder, stationary camera arrays, and remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
- Conduct calibration trials on natural banks for primary acoustic and camera gears used in the western Gulf of Mexico.
- Assess habitat requirements (home range, site fidelity) and population connectivity of greater amberjack across natural banks and artificial reefs within the western Gulf of Mexico and to outside regions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic using acoustic telemetry.
- Deploy conventional tags on greater amberjack in the western Gulf of Mexico for research under the direction of Dr. Matt Catalano (Auburn University).