Monitor Map

Summary & Findings

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary protects particularly dense and nearshore patches of productive “live-bottom habitat” that are sparsely distributed from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the inner- and mid-shelf of the South Atlantic Bight. Influenced by complex ocean currents, this area serves as a crossroads for both temperate (colder water) and sub-tropical species. Located 17.5 nautical miles offshore of Sapelo Island, Ga., the sanctuary encompasses 17 square nautical miles. Gray’s Reef offers some of the best recreational fishing and diving to be found in the region. More...

Gray's Reef Sanctuary Condition Summary Table
By assuming that a common marine ecosystem framework can be applied to all places, the National Marine Sanctuary program developed a series of questions that are posed at all sites and used as evaluation criteria to assess resource condition and trends.

Q & A about Condition Reports

About This
Report

Summary & Findings

What is System Wide Monitoring?

Site History and Resources

Pressures on the Sanctuary

State of Sanctuary Resources

Sanctuary Response

Concluding Remarks

Rating Criteria

References

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  Questions/
Resources
Rating Basis For Judgement Description Findings Sanctuary Response
WATER
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality?
?
2000 and 2005 monitoring data suggest good water quality, with some contaminants but below EPA guidelines; insufficient information to assess trend N/A Recognized challenges due to coastal and inland development, population increases and climate change.

Continue monitoring for nutrient levels, contaminants and indicators of climate change.
2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
?
Stable nutrients, chlorophyll, lack of harmful algal blooms Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or habitat quality.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health?
hyphen
2000 baseline, 2005 indicators below EPA Levels of Concern Selected conditions that have the potential to affect human health may exist, but human impacts have not been reported.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
hyphen
Increasing, but little evidence of negative effects Few or no activities occur that are likely to negatively affect water quality.
HABITAT
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
?
Baseline data recently completed; assessment of trends will depend on future observations Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resource assemblages, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in living resources or water quality. Final management plan contains anchoring prohibition and outreach plans, and marine debris outreach, education and monitoring programs.

Sanctuary will enhance ongoing science to better understand biologically-structured habitat, continue monitoring benthic fauna and sediment quality, and designate research area to discern between human-induced and natural changes.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
?
Insufficient information on the complex biological structure of habitats to rate condition, though there is evidence of anchor, fishing and storm damage N/A
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
hyphen
Low levels in 2000 and 2005 Contaminants do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or water quality.
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
?
Localized within areas of heavy use Selected activities have resulted in measurable habitat impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
LIVING RESOURCES
9.What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
?
Considerable benthic, epifauna and fish biodiversity monitoring and data, but insufficient at this time to rate status, trends and impacts as they relate to community development and function N/A Fishing is limited to rod and reel, handline, and spearfishing without powerheads. Spearfishing is under review. Regulations prohibit divers from taking marine organisms. A research area has been proposed to evaluate impacts of bottom fishing. Education and outreach programs are in place that promote good diving techniques.

Monitoring will continue for invasive species.

Sanctuary will confirm and characterize key species, conduct analysis of sponge mortality samples and monitor key species.
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Black sea bass, gag, red grouper, and red snapper regionally overfished and/or undergoing overfishing Extraction has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity.
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
Two lionfish identified in sanctuary in fall 2007; three titan acorn barnacles found winter 2008 Non-indigenous species exist, precluding full community development and function, but are unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation of ecosystem integrity.
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Removal of key fish species and recent sponge mortality The reduced abundance of selected key species may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity; or selected key species are at reduced levels, but recovery is possible.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
?
Key species tentatively identified but unable to determine condition and health; some contaminants detected in sponges, but cause of mortality undetermined N/A
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
?
Localized within areas of heavy use Selected activities have resulted in measurable living resource impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
N/A
No archaeological evidence, though former human occupation remains a possibility based on paleontological data N/A Anchoring has been banned, in part to reduce threat to archaeological resources.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
N/A
No archaeological evidence, though former human occupation remains a possibility based on paleontological data N/A
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
hyphen
Potential for diving, fishing and anchoring to damage sites Some potentially relevant activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on maritime archaeological resource integrity.

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