Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2016

Abstract

Fish species of the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) continental shelf are well known; however, species occupying hard-bottom habitats, particularly on the outer shelf, are poorly documented. Reef-like habitats are relatively uncommon on the MAB shelf; therefore, shipwrecks may represent a significant habitat resource. During fall 2012 and spring 2013, 9 sites (depths: 42–126 m) near Norfolk Canyon were surveyed by using remotely operated vehicles. One site consisted of sand bottom, one consisted of predominantly natural hard bottom, and 7 sites included 8 large shipwrecks. Of 38 fish taxa identified, 33 occurred on hard bottom and 25 occurred on soft substrata. Fourteen fish taxa occurred almost exclusively on hard bottom, and 6 species were observed only on soft bottom. The most abundant taxa, especially on reef habitat, were the chain dogfish (Scyliorhinus retifer), a scorpionfish (Scorpaena sp.), the yellowfin bass (Anthias nicholsi), the red barbier (Baldwinella vivanus), the black sea bass (Centropristis striata), unidentified anthiine serranids, and the deepbody boarfish (Antigonia capros). Depth, location, and season did not significantly influence fish assemblages. Fish assemblages on natural and artificial hard-bottom habitat were similar but significantly different from soft-bottom assemblages. Deep-reef fishes of the southern MAB may be constrained by zoogeography, depth, and inadequate habitat— limitations that could increase their vulnerability.

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