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Analysis and Visualization of Deep Corals and Commercial Fishing Interactions in Southern California

Project Goal

To map the distribution of deep corals, sponges, and fishing debris in relation to fishing effort in Southern California using a photographic database of 30,000+ images taken between the years 2003-2011 by NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s remotely operated vehicle Sebastes.

Geographic Location

Southern California


Thirty thousand high-resolution images were reviewed and digitally “tagged” for the presence of hard corals, soft corals, sponges and debris. Images were assigned coordinates, depth, water temperature, salinity, and oxygen values by cross-referencing the photo with a database of navigation and water chemistry. Fishing effort was derived from Pacific Coast Fisheries GIS Resource database by the United States Geological Survey.


Having reviewed 15,000 of the 30,000 images, numerous occurrences of deep-sea corals were found, including sea fans (octocorals), black corals, hydrocorals, and scleractinian corals. Also found were several instances of Lophelia pertusa, a globally distributed species which is reportedly rare in the region. Remnants of derelict fishing gear (monofilament lines, nets, and anchor lines) were identified on some reefs.

Importance to Management

The project will improve marine spatial management in an established Cowcod Conservation Area, through the identification of essential fish habitat. The project will greatly improve understanding of the growth and distribution of Lophelia pertusa relative to ocean acidification parameters by focusing on Southern California Bight as a natural laboratory.


Using Goggle Earth, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Benthic Resources (ROV) Group website shows some locations of marine debris, including gill nets, lines, ammunition, and soda and beer bottles. The next iteration will include images of deep-sea corals and sponges, with annual estimates of fishing effort: http://swfsc.noaa.gov/SWFSC_MarineDebris/

Fiscal Year 2011 Funding


Point of Contact

Dr. Peter J. Etnoyer, Peter.Etnoyer@noaa.gov