Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Flame Box Crab Management

Research Area


Gathering information on the status and natural variability of fish communities, habitat and ecological systems is essential for informed management of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Even today, there are many questions we have yet to answer and much information we have yet to gather. In order to fill in these gaps in our and the public's knowledge about the overall health of the Sanctuary and the living communities it supports, Gray's Reef needs a control area within the Sanctuary where it can take baseline measurements over time. We need to be able to better understand how the Sanctuary functions and to tell the difference between human-induced and natural changes. That is why Gray's Reef is considering a research or control area within the Sanctuary.

The Questions We Want To Answer

Currently, Gray's Reef management does not have the answers to these and other questions:

  • What impacts do extractible activities have on the reef and living marine resources?
  • What would the fish populations and invertebrate communities look like in the absence of fishing impacts?
  • What impacts would the removal of targeted species have on the more "resident" fish?
  • How does one scientifically contrast community structure between "natural" reefs and reefs that have been influenced by human activities?
  • What are the spatial and temporal dynamics of fish communities in a natural population?
  • What variability in the natural system is inherent and what are results of human impact?
  • How well is NOAA conserving the resources of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary?

The Public Process

The concept of a research area within the Sanctuary has been under discussion since 1999. A working group (the Research Area Working Group) of the Gray's Reef Sanctuary Advisory Council, began to address the topic in 2004 and by January 2008, the Advisory Council had developed a consensus on six boundary scenarios and several activity restrictions for the public to consider. Public comment - known as "scoping" - was held in March and April 2008. The Scoping Summary was completed in June 2008 and distrubuted to all participants in July 2008.

After consideration of public comments and deliberations by the working group and the Sanctuary Advisory Council, the sanctuary superintendent received final recommendations from the Advisory Council in January 2009. Those recommendations are the basis for the preferred alternatives to be included in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS is expected to be released for public comment in 2010.

For questions or information, contact Resource Protection Coordinator, Becky Shortland at 912-598-2381 or

Other Related Documents

Boundary Options for a Research Area within Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, by Matthew S. Kendall and Katherine A. Eschelbach, In partnership with Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the Research Area Working Group

Research Area Scoping Presentation, by George R. Sedberry

Research or Control Area Concept, by George R. Sedberry, (As presented to CCA GA - 1/19/2008)

Federal Register Notice of Intent - March 5, 2008

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