technical report |
Blyth-Skyrme VJ, Rooney JJ, Parrish FA, Boland RC
Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are light-dependent communities of corals, algae, sponges, and other organisms that exist at depths between approximately 30 m to 150 m. Little known until recently and understudied relative to shallower reefs, MCEs may contain significant coral reef ecosystem resources, including both luxuriant coral reefs and diverse fish communities. Research in the Pacific Islands Region over the last few years has produced data to facilitate a better awareness of the distribution and potential significance of MCEs, but they are still relatively unknown and remain absent from most coral reef ecosystem monitoring programs and management considerations. We synthesize results of research to map the distribution of benthic habitats and communities at mesophotic depths within the region and discuss them within the context of requirement to identify and manage essential fish habitat for managed species mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.