[Coral-List] Mesophotic coral reef spawning between Puerto Rico and La Hispaniola
coral_giac at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 25 00:28:14 EDT 2011
This short notice is to inform you that while flying from Puerto Rico to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on Monday June 20, 2011 between approximately 12:10 and 12:20 pm about ten to twelve huge pink colored slicks were observed moving towards the west-northwest halfway between Desecheo Island (PR), Mona Island (PR) and the Dominican Republic. Two of the slicks were at least 1-2 km long and probably about 100 m wide. Some others were at least 0.5 to 1 km long. The rest were more fragmented and thin. Slicks were upcurrent probably at about 50-65 km off the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Then, during my return flight on Thursday June 23 at 6:30 pm from Punta Cana to San Juan, Puerto Rico, there were plenty of slicks that washed ashore along part of the Punta Cana shores just south of Cabo Engaño in the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. These slicks were at some areas as wide as 50 m from the shore and covered extensive areas of the
shoreline on areas with extensive linear reefs, spur and grooves, colonized pavement and rocky shores. There were also two smaller lines of slicks, one of them at about 1 km offshore and the other one at about 8-10 km or so. Both were moving towards the Dominican shorelines.
To my knowledge, this is the first time that such a mass spawning event occurs on Puerto Rican waters during the month of June. I have no reports of coral mass spawning activities from shallow reefs along any of the areas of the western, northern, southern or even the eastern shelf of Puerto Rico during these days or last week, according to colleagues, divers, fisher folks, and friends I just contacted.No information or observations
of mass spawning events or the arrival of spawn around the touristic
area of Punta Cana was observed or documented either during these days.The only possible explanation would possibly be that this might have been a mass spawning event that occurred probably last Saturday or Sunday evening on mesophotic habitats or from even deeper reef communities off the western Puerto Rican shelf. Several significant mesophotic reefs are present north of Mona and around Desecheo Island, two off-shelf islands located at 69 and 24 km off western Puerto Rico, respectively.
We did witness a similar massive arrival of mass spawn during late September 2007 around some of the eastern Puerto Rican shelf, mostly at Culebra Island, probably from mesophotic reef systems located between the US Virgin Islands and the island of Vieques, just east and southeast of Culebra. That mass spawning event coincided with a nearby hurricane passing by that caused a shift in the wind patterns from the south and might have explained the unusual arrival to the Culebra shorelines.
Mass spawning in Puerto Rico after the June full moon is unprecedented. I am wondering if this might have had something to do with rapidly increasing ocean temperatures through the area during 2011. If anyone has any further information regarding recent coral reef mass spawning activity from the northeastern Caribbean I will be truly happy to hear from you. At least, this mass spawning event was good news to the depauperate and certainly highly degraded Dominican coral reef systems!!
Edwin A. Hernández-Delgado, Ph.D.
University of Puerto Rico
Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation
Coral Reef Research Group
P.O. Box 23360
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-3360
Tel (787) 764-0000, x-2009
Fax (787) 764-2610
e-mail: coral_giac at yahoo.com
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