What Have We Learned About the Oceanic Fish Fauna of the Gulf of Mexico? Initial Results of the NOAA Offshore Nekton Sampling and Analysis Program

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2015 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Houston, Texas, February 16-19, 2015

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The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (DWHOS) necessitated a whole-water-column approach for assessment that included the epipelagic (0-200m), mesopelagic (200-1000m) and bathypelagic (>1000m) biomes. The latter two biomes collectively form the largest integrated habitat in the GoM. This habitat received the initial oil/methane discharge, plus millions of liters of dispersant, and contained persistent deep (~1100m) plumes of oil and dispersant. By some estimates, only half of the discharged oil and none of the methane reached the ocean surface, demonstrating that DWHOS had an extensive deep-pelagic component. Before the DWHOS we had only a basic knowledge of the deep-pelagic GoM. Data regarding biodiversity, abundance, and distribution of the pelagic fauna were not comprehensive and thus, a large-scale program, the NOAA Offshore Nekton Sampling and Analysis Program (ONSAP), was implemented as part of the NRDA process. Here we provide the initial results of a 3-month ONSAP field campaign in 2011 in which the pelagic fauna was sampled from 0-1500 m. During this campaign, from the 87,402 specimens collected, a minimum total of 459 fish species were represented. Ongoing analyses will certainly increase this number, as hard-to-identify taxa are resolved. This figure represents nearly one-third of the fish species currently known for the GoM. Of these species, 53 are previously unknown in the GoM, including previously undescribed species.


Session: 006-Emerging Ecological Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Evaluating Ecosystem Change and Resiliency Tuesday, Feb 17, 2015, 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM

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