Seafloor mapping of shelf-edge habitats in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico demonstrates how sidescan-sonar imagery, seismic-reflection profiling, video data, geologic mapping, sediment sampling, and understanding the regional geologic history can enhance, support, and guide traditional fisheries research and management. New data from the Madison Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Reserves reveal complex benthic habitats consisting of high-relief calcareous pinnacles, low-relief karstic hardbottom, rocky outcrops several kilometers in length, and variable thickness of fine-grained and apparently mobile coarse-grained sediments. Our data also show that certain fish alter the landscape by clearing sediment from hardbottom areas (e.g., red grouper Epinephelus morio) and by burrowing extensively in fine-grained sediment (e.g., tilefish Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps). The seafloor imagery and geologic maps show that (a) sea level fluctuations played a dominant role in the development of the present-day regional geology, and (b) habitats (and benthic communities) are tied closely to geologic character. Understanding the geologic setting allowed for efficient and representative sampling of the biology. The geologic data can be used to set meaningful boundaries for fishery reserves and to help predict habitats in areas that are not well mapped. This interdisciplinary work added value to traditional research disciplines by providing management with integrated tools to make better decisions. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2003.
Additional publication details
Importance of geology to fisheries management: Examples from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico