The Great Red Snapper Count: Habitat Classification
This publication describes the habitat classification phase of the Great Red Snapper Count, which is a 2-year research project to estimate the abundance of red snapper in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Where do red snapper live in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico?
- Red snapper are distributed across a variety of habitats.
- The seafloor consists primarily of sand and mud, along with natural reefs; these areas provide habitat for red snapper.
- Concentrated areas of artificial structures also serve as red snapper habitat.
- The coverage of sediments, natural reefs, and artificial structures differs dramatically across the Gulf.
What types of artificial structures exist in the Gulf?
- Large oil and gas platforms are common in the western Gulf.
- Smaller structures (chicken transport cages, pyramids, military tanks, planes, car bodies, and others) are deliberately placed on the sea floor to create fish habitat.
What is habitat classification?
- Habitat classification is Phase 1 of the Great Red Snapper Count.
- This phase involves determining where each of the various habitat types exist across the Gulf.
How did scientists approach the classification process?
- U.S. Gulf waters were separated into four regions: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi-Alabama, and Florida.
- Each region was divided into three depth zones, creating 12 unique sections.
- For each section, scientists compiled existing data from various sources to characterize known habitat features.
What did scientists learn from this process?
- Scientists calculated the amount of the U.S. Gulf sea floor that is covered by sand, mud, and natural reefs.
- Scientists also determined the quantity of existing artificial reef structures.
Why is this information useful?
- Based on the distribution and number of different habitat types, scientists decided which sampling approaches, or “gear types,” to use in the Great Red Snapper Count.
- This will result in the best possible estimate of red snapper abundance in each section of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
This independent study is being conducted by a leading team of red snapper scientists from across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond:
This publication was supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under NOAA Award NA16OAR4170181, the Mississippi -Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of these organizations.
Publication 3282 (POD-10-18)
By Amanda E. Jefferson, Extension Associate, and J. Marcus Drymon, PhD, Assistant Extension Professor, Coastal Research and Extension Center.
Produced by Agricultural Communications.
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Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. GARY B. JACKSON, Director
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