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Assessing Deep-Sea Coral Communities from Archived Video Surveys: Year 2

Project Goal

To quantify deep-sea corals and sponges from archived video transects conducted in central California, and to integrate these data into the national deep-sea coral geodatabase.

Geographic Location

Central California


This project supported a research biologist to analyze archived video transects conducted during visual surveys of demersal communities in submarine canyons and on the continental shelf off central California. The data include counts, sizes, and associated habitats (location, depth, substratum type) of deep-sea corals and sponges identified to lowest possible taxon from the video images. These data will be made available to managers through the national deep-sea coral geodatabase.


Data on deep-sea coral communities have been collected from archived video transects conducted during 163 submersible dives at 6 submarine canyon and shelf sites along the central coast of California from 1992 to 2009. Video from 464 survey transects (10 minutes each) were analyzed amounting to over 75 hours of video footage. Depth of dives varied from 26-365 m. We only counted structure-forming corals and sponges that were at least 20 cm in length. Only 47 transects had no corals and sponges.

A total of 4,862 individual corals were counted from at least 16 different taxa. Sea pens were the most numerous group, by far, with 3,406 individuals representing at least three taxa (Ptilosarcus gurneyi, Halipteris spp., and an unidentified fleshy white pen). Sea pens were the tallest corals on these surveys (maximum height 80 cm). The next most abundant coral was the mushroom coral (Anthomastus ritteri) with 906 individuals. Lophelia pertusa, some of which covered > 2 m of the sea floor, were observed 82 times in these transects. The remaining coral taxa comprised mostly gorgonians and cup corals.

Importance to Management

These data are being used directly as part of the 5-Year Review of Pacific Coast Groundfish Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), to refine EFH and better understand potential impacts of fishing gear types to biogenic habitats. These data also will be used to develop predictive models and maps of the distribution of deepsea coral communities, which will improve our ability to protect and manage these important natural resources.

Fiscal Year 2012 Funding


Point of Contact

Mary Yoklavich, Mary.Yoklavich@noaa.gov