Stetson Bank Long-term Monitoring: 2018 Annual Report

This document contains descriptions of the methods used, summaries of the field notes recorded, and highlights of significant observations made during the 2018 annual long- term monitoring efforts of fish and benthic communities at Stetson Bank, including the arrival of a new exotic species, Neopomacentrus cyanomos. Processed results and statistical analyses from this study will be reported in combination with the previous four years of data (2015 – 2018) in a synthesis report to follow. Stetson Bank is an uplifted claystone/siltstone feature located within Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, which supports a diverse benthic community of sponges and coral. Annual monitoring of the banks crest has been conducted since 1993. Surveys of the mesophotic zone surrounding the bank crest were added in 2015.

In 2018, several monitoring activities were not completed on the bank crest due to a reduced availability of divers. Bank crest and mesophotic repetitive photostations as well as random transects (both fish and benthic surveys) were completed. Three of the four quarterly water sampling cruises were completed. Autonomous instruments installed on the bank crest collected temperature data throughout the year. However, salinity and turbidity data on the bank crest were not collected in late 2017 due to instrument failure. Also, despite extensive searching, autonomous temperature loggers previously installed in mesophotic habitat were not located

Key Words

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