Sea Technology

JAN 2018

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36 ST | January 2018 www.sea-technology.com U.S. and Cuba participated, including specialists in corals, fish, sponges, algae and physical oceanog- raphy. Total ship transit around the island covered about 2,778 km (about 1,500 nautical miles). For- ty-three ROV dives at 36 stations surveyed reefs from depths of 18 to 188 m, covered 27 km and result- ed in 110 hours of high-definition video. A total of 21,146 digital still images documented habitat and species and photo transects. The ship continuously recorded surface water hydrography, including near-sur- face temperature, salinity, florescence and dissolved ox- ygen, as well as water column current structure using an acoustic Doppler current profiler. Temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen were recorded using sensors on the ROV; pCO2 and pH sensors provided data for arago- nite saturation analyses. Results The expedition documented for the first time the deep mesophotic habitat surrounding Cuba. All 43 dives con- firmed the presence of MCE habitat around the entire coastline of Cuba. Preliminary data suggest that, like the shallow reefs that fringe most of the Cuban coast, the deep reefs parallel most of the shelf edge and the various archipelagos. Topographically, the most consistently con- spicuous features are the Deep Island Slope (125 to more than 150 m), Deep Fore-Reef Escarpment (the "Wall," 50 to 125 m) and Deep Fringing Reef (30 to 50 m). The Wall has the greatest diversity and density of macrobio- ta; nearly all vertical surfaces are covered with diverse sponges, algae, gorgonians and black corals. A total of 424 species of benthic macroinvertebrates, 124 macroal- gae and 180 fish have been identified to date from the surveys and from the collected specimens. These are pre- liminary results, and taxonomic analyses are in progress. tro de Investigaciónes Marinas at University of Havana (CIM-UH), Centro Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (CNAP), Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (ICIMAR), Geocuba Estu- dios Marinos, Guanahacabibes National Park-Sistema Nacional de Areas Protegidas (PNG-SNAP), Acuario Nacional de Cuba (ANC); and for the U.S., two NOAA Cooperative Institutes: the CIOERT and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami. The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) supported this research under a cooperative agreement with HBOI. The joint re- search cruise was conducted from May 14 to June 13, 2017 on the University of Miami's RV F.G. Walton Smith using a Mohawk ROV, operated by the Undersea Vehicle Program at the University of North Carolina at Wilming- ton. Several days were spent at the western tip of Cuba where ROV dives were conducted at Banco de San Anto- nio and the Guanahacabibes Marine Sanctuaries. These are "Sister Sanctuaries" to the Florida Keys National Ma- rine Sanctuary and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which were designated in a memoran- dum of understanding (MOU) between NOAA, the U.S. National Park Service and Cuba's CNAP. This MOU was the basis for the joint expedition. Twenty-one scientists and technicians from both the Center: Giant barrel sponges (Xestospongia muta) are com- mon in the upper mesophotic zone at San Antonio Bank. Below: Map of the survey sites (yellow pins). Broad orange arrows indicate the offshore Yucatan Current, while the red arrows indicate the shelf break countercurrents. Right: The RV Walton Smith arriving in the port of Havana at 8 a.m. on May 16, 2017. (Photo Credit: Centro Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Cuba's Twilight Zone Reefs and Their Regional Connectivity)

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