Pulley Ridge Habitat Area of Particular Concern
The deepest hermatypic coral reef in the continental United States is located on Pulley Ridge off the southwest coast of Florida. The ridge itself is a drowned barrier island approximately 100 kilometers long by 5 kilometers wide northwest of the Dry Tortugas and running parallel to the Florida peninsula. Live corals, dominated by Agaricia species, have been located between the 60 meter and 70 meters isobaths along with a diverse assemblage of fish species, comprised of a mixture of shallow and deep water species.
Pulley Ridge has been designated as a Habitat Area of Particular Concern—or HAPC—and some fishing activities have been restricted, but growing concern for hermatypic corals in the area may lead to future management options. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has expressed concern over ongoing damage to Pulley Ridge habitat by fishing operations and is considering additional protective measures. Therefore, information on the extent and nature of the coral and fish assemblages will be invaluable to delineating the boundaries of any new closed areas.
Of greater scientific value will be the acquisition of data on shallow water species living in these depths, interactions between deep and shallow species in this unique ecosystem as well as searches for evidence of coral bleaching or other deleterious effects of climate change described in shallower ecosystems inhabited by similar species.
Our research objectives for Pulley Ridge include:
Determine the extent and magnitude of scleractinian corals, other adjacent data and associated fish assemblages.
Gather qualitative and quantitative data on habitat.