HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Richard E. Dodge

Third Advisor

Kenneth Banks


Coral reef communities are currently threatened by a variety of stressors. One direct and visible impact is physical damage from anthropogenic sources such as vessel anchors, recreational SCUBA divers, snorkelers, and debris. To lesson the impact of anchors on reefs, many coastal nations around the world have installed public mooring systems for use by small commercial and recreational vessel (typically less than 15 m in length). This thesis reviews current international mooring programs and assesses the impact of mooring use on reefs offshore Broward County, FL.

Details of existing mooring programs, such as costs, maintenance schedules, and effectiveness in meeting program goals, is not readily available to coral reef managers. In this study a questionnaire was distributed to obtain information about mooring programs worldwide. The 41 questionnaire respondents indicated that there is variability in operating and maintenance procedures. The vast majority of respondents viewed moorings as an effective and/or important management tool. Mooring programs are used to achieve a variety of management goals, often with the aid of additional regulations. Additional research is needed to determine if mooring programs are able to achieve the primary goal, as defined by the questionnaire respondents, of reducing anchor damage on coral reefs.

In this study, observations were conducted to determine mooring use offshore Broward County, Florida, USA. The majority of surveyed moored vessels were between 16 and 35 ft (4.8 and 10.6 m) in length. When all mooring site observations are pooled, SCUBA divers slightly outnumbered fishers as the primary users of the moorings; however, at some mooring sites fishing was more common than diving. Vessels were observed anchoring in the vicinity of the moorings even when moorings were available. Boater use patterns can aid in efficiently managing mooring maintenance and future resource management recommendations which may include additional regulations surrounding mooring use.

The effect of mooring use on coral reefs offshore Broward County, Florida, USA, was assessed through 20 m x 1.5 m belt quadrat transects. Three major groups of coral reef sessile organisms were surveyed: stony corals (Scleractinia), octocorals (Octocorallia), and sponges (Porifera). In total, 19 transects were sampled at mooring sites and 17 transects were sampled at adjacent, non-mooring reef sites. Sessile organisms located in the mooring transects did not show a significant difference in damage or number of unattached organisms when compared to nearby areas without moorings. Reef at mooring sites have a greater amount of debris than areas with no moorings. A comparison of the sessile communities at individual mooring sites indicated that the mooring site that was most heavily utilized by fishers had a greater amount of damaged octocorals and debris than the other mooring sites. Based on this study, moorings are having no effect on sessile organisms at the current level of use in Broward County. Although I was unable to measure an effect, I believe moorings to be a useful management tool. The presence of moorings has prevented thousands of anchor drops and I believe that if regulations are enacted to reduce the number of vessels anchoring near the moorings in Broward that the moorings could have a positive impact on the coral reef community.

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