Stetson Bank Long-Term Monitoring: 2017 Annual Report

This report documents study methods and summarizes key findings and field notes from the 2017 annual long-term monitoring study of fish and benthic communities at Stetson Bank. Stetson Bank is an uplifted claystone/siltstone feature located within Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It supports a diverse benthic community of sponges and coral. Benthic monitoring has occurred at the site since 1993 and was expanded in 2015 to include monitoring in the mesophotic zone surrounding the bank crest.

In 2017, bank crest high relief habitat was documented to have higher scleractinian coral cover in comparison to low relief habitat. Macroalgae cover on the bank crest has been increasing in recent years. In the mesophotic zone, two habitats were documented: coralline algae reef and deep reef. Coralline algae reef biotic cover was predominately algae and deep reef cover was mostly Cnidaria. The majority of both bank crest and mesophotic fish communities comprised small individuals and exhibited an inverted biomass pyramid. The mesophotic fish community was predominately piscivores, of which the juvenile stages were seen in high abundance on the bank crest.

Key Words

Benthic community, fish community, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, long-term monitoring, mesophotic coral ecosystem, Stetson Bank, and water quality.