Project will provide high-resolution bottom maps and fish population estimates on the west coast of Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2014) – The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science has been awarded a $4.5 million grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to provide high-resolution bottom mapping and fish density estimates for west Florida reefs potentially damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The project will be conducted in conjunction with the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO).
The grant will support studies to identify essential habitats for reef fish populations, including snappers, groupers, amberjacks and other species critical to the region’s fisheries. Much of the region off the west coast of Florida remains unmapped and this effort will support managers at the state and federal level as they seek to rebuild populations affected by the spill and to recover damaged habitats.
Funding from NFWF comes from a 2013 settlement of criminal cases involving BP and Transocean with respect to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Plea agreements resulted in a total of $2.5 billion being directed to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to fund projects benefitting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill. USF’s grant is part of nearly $100 million for new restoration projects on the Gulf Coast announced on Monday, including $34 million for Florida projects.
The three-year project will produce bottom topography maps of areas along the west Florida coast including carbonate reefs, kedges and slopes known to harbor reef fish populations. Using the research vessels Weatherbird II and Bellows, from the Florida Institute of Oceanography, scientists will deploy sonars to image the bottom topography and produce maps. Additionally, the project will deploy a towed camera system called C-BASS (Camera-Based Survey Assessment System). Developed at the USF Center for Marine Technology, C-BASS will be deployed to determine the density, species composition and size structure of fishes using the various habitats.
“This set of studies will use state-of-the-art ocean imaging technologies to better understand and protect habitats off the west coast of Florida,” said College of Marine Science Dean Jackie Dixon. “
The mapping project is led by Steven Murawski, Downtown Partnership-Peter Betzer Endowed Chair of Biological Oceanography at USF, mechanical engineer, Chad Lembke, of USF’s Center for Ocean Technology, and underwater acoustics expert Stanley Locker, also of USF. Collaborators in the project include William Hogarth, Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, and Luiz Barbieri, Director of Marine Fisheries Research at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
More information on C-BASS can be found at: http://www.marine.usf.edu/cbass/?page_id=2
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among both public and private institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving nearly 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.5 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.