The National Park Service (NPS) , in collaboration with several agencies (U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of the Virgin Islands, The Nature Conservancy, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst), is conducting a seven-year acoustic telemetry research project at multiple trophic scales that tracks multiple fish species and spiny lobster. The representative fish species were chosen based on their ecology, which include: sharks (apex predators), barracuda (mesopredators) and reef fish (including low carnivores and herbivorous species).
The study area will include Buck Island Reef National Monument, East End Marine Park and Lang Bank. The primary objectives of this research project are to:
• quantify the habitat utilization and home range of target reef fish species and spiny lobsters
• test the connectivity of target reef fish species and spiny lobsters to adjacent areas
• determine the location of critical reef fish spawning aggregations
Underwater acoustic telemetry is accomplished by ‘tagging’ target species with simple battery-powered transmitters, by surgical implantation into fishes or externally epoxying tags to lobster carapaces. The signals that are emitted by these tags can be recorded by acoustic receivers; therefore, it is necessary to deploy many static acoustic receivers to detect the acoustic signals that are deployed in fish and on lobsters as those organisms move around the study area. A few receivers are deployed on existing mooring pins tethered to a floating (sub-surface) leash, but most are, or will be, deployed on sand-bottom habitats. Small sand screws will be deployed in deep sand while flat cement anchors are used where sand is shallow.
NPS expects to deploy all of the receivers, and continue fish capture and acoustic tagging in early 2015. Dependent upon the ecology of each target reef fish species, an appropriate fishing method will be selected from: fish trap, monofilament net, hook and line, hand net. Data will be retrieved (downloaded from the stationary acoustic receivers) multiple times per year and receivers get cleaned and batteries are replaced. Those data are then disseminated to the collaborating principle investigators for analysis and reporting. The information will be used to identify essential fish and lobster habitat, movement corridors, and critical habitats in an effort to develop better fisheries management practices on St. Croix. (www.nps.gov/BUIS)
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