Reef fish populations are conspicuous and essential components of coral reef ecosystems in the south Florida region. Recent precipitous declines in these populations are believed to be due to severe habitat degradation as well as significant increases in recreational and commercial fishing. The monitoring methodologies described in this document are necessary for understanding how natural and manmade stressors are changing reef fish populations and communities. These stressors will continue to increase, and understanding the responses of populations and communities will be critical for their sustainable management. This document provides the background behind and descriptions of the protocols developed for a collaborative, multi-agency effort to monitor reef fish populations in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. Agencies involved include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NOAA Fisheries), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS), and the National Park Service (NPS). This collaborative effort is the culmination of nearly three decades of independent Florida Keys monitoring programs aimed at fish populations in the region.
This document first gives an overview of the objectives of the monitoring program, which are focused on tracking changes in the abundances, spatial distributions and size structures of exploited reef fish species and the reef fish community as a whole. These changes are evaluated each year with respect to the habitat features, the physical environment and potential management actions that may have affected the dynamics of the populations.
Citation: Brandt, M.E., N. Zurcher, A. Acosta, J.S. Ault, J.A. Bohnsack, M.W. Feeley, D.E. Harper, J.H. Hunt, T. Kellison, D.B. McClellan, M.E. Patterson, and S.G. Smith. 2009. A cooperative multi-agency reef fish monitoring protocol for the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem. Natural Resource Report NPS/SFCN/NRR-2009/150. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.