Reef fishes are conspicuous and essential components of coral reef ecosystems and economies of southern Florida and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). Throughout Florida and the USVI, reef fish are under threat from a variety of anthropogenic and natural stressors including overfishing, habitat loss, and environmental changes.
The South Florida/Caribbean Network (SFCN), a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), is charged with monitoring reef fishes, among other natural and cultural resources, within six parks in the South Florida - Caribbean region (Biscayne National Park, BISC; Buck Island Reef National Monument, BUIS; Dry Tortugas National Park, DRTO; Everglades National Park, EVER; Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve, SARI; Virgin Islands National Park, VIIS). Monitoring data is intended for park managers who are and will continue to be asked to make decisions to balance environmental protection, fishery sustainability and park use by visitors. The range and complexity of the issues outlined above, and the need for NPS to invest in a strategy of monitoring, modeling, and management to ensure the sustainability of its precious assets, will require strategic investment in long-term, high-precision, multispecies reef fish data that increases inherent system knowledge and reduces uncertainty.
The goal of this guide is to provide the framework for park managers and researchers to create or enhance a reef fish monitoring program within areas monitored by the SFCN. The framework is expected to be applicable to other areas as well, including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. The favored approach is characterized by an iterative process of data collection, dataset integration, sampling design analysis, and population and community assessment that evaluates resource risks associated with management policies. Using this model, a monitoring program can adapt its survey methods to increase accuracy and precision of survey estimates as new information becomes available, and adapt to the evolving needs and broadening responsibilities of park management.
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