Impacts of Lost Fishing Gear on Coral Reef Sessile Invertebrates in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Fishing gear, Florida Keys, Marine pollution, Protected areas, Stratified sample design
The Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem supports multimillion-dollar commercial and recreational fisheries. The ecological effects caused by fishing gear that is lost when cut or broken after snagging on the bottom is a growing concern to managers and scientists. Few data exist, however, to assess the impacts of lost fishing gear to benthic organisms and habitat structure. In this study, 63 offshore coral reef and hard-bottom sites were surveyed during 2001 to quantify the impacts of lost fishing gear to coral reef sessile invertebrates. Lost hook-and-line fishing gear accounted for 87% of all debris (N=298 incidences) encountered and was responsible for 84% of the 321 documented impacts to sponges and benthic cnidarians, predominantly consisting of tissue abrasion causing partial individual or colony mortality. Branching gorgonians (Octocorallia) were the most frequently affected (56%), followed by milleporid hydrocorals (19%) and sponges (13%). Factors affecting the impacts of lost fishing gear include sessile invertebrate density, the density of lost fishing gear, and gear length. While lost hook-and-line fishing gear is ubiquitous in the Florida Keys, less than 0.2% of the available milleporid hydrocorals, stony corals, and gorgonians in the habitats studied are adversely affected in terms of colony abrasions and partial mortality.
Mark Chiappone, Helga Dienes, Dione W. Swanson, and Steven Miller. 2005. Impacts of Lost Fishing Gear on Coral Reef Sessile Invertebrates in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary .Biological Conservation , (2) : 221 -230. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/887.