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Condor seamount observatory (http://www.condor-project.org/) : An in situ observatory located at Condor seamount. Condor, the closest seamount to Faial Island in the central group of Azores archipelago, was chosen to host the observatory due to its location (i.e. close to ports and land-based research facilities), regional economic and scientific interest. The seamount, located around 17 km SW of Faial island, covers a wide range of depths, supports rich assemblages of invertebrates including deep-sea coral gardens and sponge aggregations with conservational importance, and for decades it served as an important fishing ground for the local demersal fleet. CONDOR observatory serves as a long-term seamount experimental area for science and management. There was several oceanographic instrumentation installed in permanence and regular cruises for monitoring and data collection purposes. The observatory created many opportunities of research to get data on key parameters from the subsurface down to the seafloor, on a wide range of taxa at different spatial scales. A range of strategies, technologies and methods were used to describe the Condor seamount communities, from visiting fauna to microbes that inhabit the seafloor. The observatory has been also used as a safe site for testing new equipment or to make experiments. The Condor observatory offers a good logistic and organization facilities; and the possibility of protecting the observatory for research purposes, reduces or eliminates human disturbance.
Demersal and deep-water fish annual monitoring surveys. : Data resulting from regular as well as irregular fisheries surveys conducted in the region since 1996. With the aim of monitoring abundances of demersal and deep water fishes, an annual survey throughout the Azores Archipelago has been conducted since 1993. The surveys follow a standardized methodology, using a long-line gear, similar to that mostly in use by the local demersal fishing fleet. During the surveys, data on fishing effort, catches by species and, on a subsample of fish, biological information (length, weight, sex, gonadal maturation stage) are consistently collected. In addition, samples are collected, such as otholits (for age estimation), tissue (for genetic and other studies). For some of the species caught, a significant amount of the specimens are tagged and released. Between 1999 and 2010, a total of 17,728 fish belonging to 51 species have been tagged, using traditional spaghetti tags. Tagging is expected to contribute to the increase of knowledge about species movement patterns, connectivity among fishing grounds, as well as estimation of abundance, mortality and growth rates. Since 1993, the campaigns regularly cover the areas near all the nine islands of the archipelago, as well as various seamounts in the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone, in the depth range 25-1200 m. In addition to the annual surveys, several other campaigns have been conducted around other Macaronesian islands (Madeira and Cape Verde) and other seamounts, between 25 and 2200 m depth, mostly for exploration purposes. The research effort focused on demersal and deep water species using long-line surveys represent an unprecedented work for the region. Since 1995 a total of 507 long-line surveys have been made (including Madeira and Cape Verde), corresponding to more than 4000 hours of sea work, more than 2 million deployed hooks and 1700 km of deployed long-line. Until now about 50,000 otoliths, over 10,000 genetic samples, more than 2,000 stomachs and other biological material have been collected for studies on various aspects of the biology and ecology of the species (such as reproduction, growth, genetics, heavy metals content, etc..). Demersal dataset and information collected over nearly two decades undoubtedly contributed to increase knowledge on a range of scientific fields. Collected data on many different aspects of the biology and ecology of demersal fish species and community have been used for compiling scientific papers, theses and reports. Moreover, information on relative abundance of several commercial species is being used for giving a better advice to fishery policy makers, and has contributed along the time with data used by several working groups, such as the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea).
PTDC/MAR/108232/2008 – Movimentos, uso do habitat e conectividade de peixes em montes submarinos (SEAMOV) The increasing perception from scientists, politics, and the society that seamount fishes have as much of previously unknown diversity and complexity as well as vulnerability to exploitation, prompted some recent management actions worldwide, such as fishing bans and marine protected areas on seamounts. However, the spatial ecology of seamount fishes - essential habitat, migrations, and dispersal - is virtually unknown for the vast majority of the target species. This gap seriously hampers our capacity to devise sound spatial management schemes for seamount fisheries. The deepwater fishery around the Azores is no exception. It has been growing since the 80’s, and an even larger impact over traditional fishing grounds at the island slopes and nearer seamounts is foreseeable with the current improvement of the short-range fleet. Spatial ecology of target species is poorly known. In particular, the question whether seamount fishes depend on shallower habitats to complete their life cycle remains unanswered. This question is of major importance, given the degree of isolation to which populations around the Azores region might be subjected. The main objective of the project is to map and evaluate the relative importance, interdependence and connectivity of habitats around the Azores for the life history of two seamount key fishes with contrasting life histories – the blackspot seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo) and the bluemouth rockfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus) - , and how it changes throughout the individuals’ ontogeny. The research plan is designed to sequentially 1) answer four major research questions focused on the relative importance of island and seamount habitats: Do larvae produced in seamounts recruit inshore? Do Juveniles migrate between habitats? Do adults migrate between and within habitats? Does fine-scale habitat use explains major habitat shifts? 2) map the identified essential fish habitats (EFHs) and connectivity fluxes between them, 3) apply decision-making tools to this mapping and produce useful management scenarios. We will test a set of hypothesis organized in six tasks by using a combination of approaches and techniques of unequivocal novelty in terms of application to the study of deepwater fish. Task 1 will combine direct (light traps, plankton tows, scuba and ROV visual counts) and indirect (stomach content analyses) methods to map the occurrence of larvae and recruits on seamounts and inshore habitats. Task 2 will combine standard sclerochronology with state-of-the-art stable isotope analysis in otholiths to infer the ontogenic nature of shifts in habitat use. Task 3 will infer potential for dispersal and connectivity by investigating the presence of contrasting local chemical signatures in their tissues. Tasks 4 and 5 combined will verify the short-term, fine scale (horizontal and vertical) and long-term patterns of habitat use and migrations of juveniles and adults of the target species. Task 4 will combine intensive tag-recapture experiments (using both standard and data storage tags) with long-term dataset analysis. Task 5 will build upon the existing acoustic monitoring network, which detects fish tagged with long-lasting acoustic transmitters in receivers permanently moored in the sea bottom. Task 6 will model the data obtained and other available data (ex. annual abundance surveys) to identify EFH, quantify movement and residency rates within and between EFHs, and design different spatial protection and zoning scenarios. This project will benefit directly from other previous and ongoing efforts to collect related and complimentary data, as well as real-time and remotely sensed environmental data, with which we expect to better elucidate the ecological processes behind the habitat use patterns. Data from this project will also input stock assessment routines at IMAR/DOP. The Azores constitute a privileged setting to implement this research plan because of the proximity of seamounts to the islands. The proposed study area - the slopes around Faial and Pico islands and neighboring seamounts – hosts all habitat types of interest within just a few sailing hours from the harbor and research lab. The complementary expertise and infra-structures of the three research teams will be key to deliver this project. IMAR/DOP provides well trained human resources in fisheries assessment, biotelemetry and recruitment studies, adequate ship and lab research platforms and several pre-existing databases. INRB will provide skills and infrastructures for chemistry studies, and a consultant from NOC (UK) will provide training and infrastructures for isotope analysis. All partners have long been engaged in assisting decision-making processes of deepwater and seamount fisheries.
M2.1.2/F/029/2011: Seamount management and research tools - the Condor case study (SMART) Ecosystem based management of marine resources requires an understanding of the entire ecosystem, including humans, and long-term research and monitoring approach. Here we propose a project aimed to increasing knowledge on seamount ecosystem, using the already established Condor seamount observatory. This is a research station that is being implemented on the Condor seamount, in the Azores, and has been used since 2008 to conduct integrated studies on seamount ecosystems. It is currently closed to bottom fisheries, specifically earmarked for research, The present project intends to give continuity to the research efforts made until now on the Condor observatory, to better understand seamount ecosystem in its entirety, and advise on management actions on this and other similar areas. The research plan includes 3 work packages (WPs), on monitoring, management, integration and dissemination. WP1, devoted to research and monitoring, aims to get new data on various aspects of the seamount, with emphasis on demersal fish assemblages. Some environmental variables will be monitored, to provide information useful for the interpretation of ecological data. To assess the status of Condor demersal fish populations, data on fish assemblages and biology will be obtained, by longline surveys and traditional tagging studies. A new non extractive technique for the assessment of abundances and sizes of commercial species will be set up using a baited Image Lander. WP2 aims to develop tools for seamount management, compiling data on current and past human activities at the Condor seamount. Particular emphasis will be given to demersal fishes, to evaluate the current exploitation status of the Condor assemblages. Data collected will be used to run models and develop possible management scenarios, joining inputs from scientists, stakeholders and local authorities. WP3 is devoted to integration and dissemination. It intends to promote scientific integration of data collected on the observatory, to get a more comprehensive understanding of this ecosystem and pursue an holistic approach. Project's results will be disseminated to scientists, the general public and stakeholders, using different tools, including a dedicated website. The biological, economic and social importance of seamounts in the Azores, justifies the research effort which has been made in the last years for studying these ecosystems. Results obtained until now on the Condor observatory are contributing to a new understanding of seamount patterns and processes, and are also contributing to add new perspectives for the management of seamount ecosystems in the region. Long-term research and monitoring efforts are needed, and, being unrealistic to study and monitor in detail every seamount, it is essential to select some seamounts as representative case studies. In this context, ocean research areas like Condor observatory, are powerful tools, which may provide useful contributions to the implementation of regional marine management policies.
Good practices your organisation could share on tropical and subtropical sustainable biodiversity management:
The seamount was closed for scientific purposes to beter understand this important ecosystems, the human impacts and the resilience of their populations, recovery rates, connectivity, etc
Agreement betwen stakeholders: fishermen, government authorities and scientists. This was a bottom-up process. The scientific study still running, the adquire knwoldge of the seamount is very detailed covering many different research fields and taxonomic groups
Until the end of 2013 will be published a Special Issue on the Deep-Sea Research II which resumes not all but a good part of the results obtained up do now. A very complete list of the Condor seamount bidiversity was compiled.
Good practice & policies your organisation suggests/desires on (sub) tropical biodiversity management.:
Better plan the use of the marine territory able to avoid conflits betwen stakholders (e.g. fishermen, diving companies, etc) and to optimize the value of those activities.
Implementation of non-take MPA in all islands for scientific, and recreational/turistic purposes with longterm benefits to coastal fisheries. Promote the participation and discussions between stakeholders, as a way to achieve responsible agreements, and acceptance of measures.
Few results up to now. Need the implementation of management plans for the marine reserves under the islands natural parks.
Indicate info on projects dealing with socio-econ. valuation of biodiversity your organisation has been involved in/aware of.:
Data collection from stakeholders Interviews inquiries
Until the end of 2013 will be published a Special Issue on the Deep-Sea Research II which resumes not all but a good part of the results obtained up do now.