Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Data Buoy Science


Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary was established to conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy of Gray's Reef. Managers at Gray's Reef need to understand the biological and ecological components of the sanctuary in order to protect its resources. This understanding requires considerable research effort. NOAA scientists and scientists from other institutions have undertaken a wide variety of research activities to provide managers the information needed to understand and protect the sanctuary through scientific publications.

Below is a sample of some of the research efforts that have been undertaken in Gray's Reef. This is not an exhaustive list of all projects that have been or are being completed in the sanctuary; instead the intention is to provide examples of the sort of research that has been conducted in the sanctuary.

Sea turtles in Gray's Reef

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is an important habitat for sea turtles year round. The ledges and overhangs of the reef provide sea turtles with places to rest and forage for food.

Acoustic Fish Tagging Project

Several commercially and recreationally important snapper and grouper species are found in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Scientists have some information on the habitat preferences of these fish; however they have little information on their movement patterns. Do they stay in one spot all the time? Or do they move from one part of the sanctuary to another? Do they leave the sanctuary and return days or months later? NOAA scientists are trying to answer these questions using acoustic technology. Fish were surgically implanted with acoustic tags which emit a unique signal. Acoustic receivers were placed around the sanctuary to listen for these tags. When a fish is detected, the receiver records the date and time that the fish was in the vicinity of the receiver. The tags last for several years, and are providing scientists with important information about the movement of snapper and grouper in Gray's Reef. For more information about this study please visit the Acoustic Fish Tagging section of our site.

Reef Fish Behavior at Gray's Reef

Dr. Peter Auster of the University of Connecticut is currently studying how predatory fish in the water column (pelagic) predatory fish affect prey fish and those on or near the bottom (benthic predatory fish). This research is part of a larger effort to understand the roles of "choices" fishes might make in their behaviors, and how this adds to the high diversity of species found in reef fish communities. More information on fish behavior is available here.

Dr. Peter Auster's team conducted their third year of study on this project in Gray's Reef during June 2010. Click here to view a summary findings.

Fishing Pressure

Recreational fishing using certain gear is allowed in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Fishermen tend to target their effort around hard bottom habitats within the sanctuary. While hard bottom habitat is scattered throughout Gray's Reef, most fishermen tend to target larger ledge systems. NOAA Scientist Dr. Matt Kendall conducted a study designed to inventory the invertebrates and fish communities at Gray's Reef and to analyze how those communities are impacted by fishing activities. Results from this study show a difference in the size and distribution of several important recreational species between areas of high fishing pressure and low fishing pressure. More information on this study is available here.

Please visit the Publications section of our site to learn more about research that has been conducted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Sea Anemone

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