Distribution and abundance of large pelagic species at Cocos Ridge seamounts

Published on 09. December 2020

A first assessment of the distribution and abundance of large pelagic species at Cocos Ridge seamounts (Eastern Tropical Pacific) using drifting pelagic baited remote cameras

Marta Cambra, Frida Lara-Lizardi, Cesar Peñaherrera, Alex Hearn, James T. Ketchum, Patricia Zarate, Carlos Chacón, Jenifer Suárez-Moncada, Esteban Herrera, Mario Espinoza


Understanding the link between seamounts and large pelagic species (LPS) is critical for guiding management and conservation efforts in open water ecosystems. The seamounts along the Cocos Ridge in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) are thought to play a critical role for LPS moving between Cocos Island (Costa Rica) and Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). However, to date, research efforts to understand pelagic community structure beyond the borders of these oceanic Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been limited. This study used drifting-pelagic baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) to characterize the distribution and relative abundance of LPS at Cocos Ridge seamounts. Our drifting-pelagic BRUVS detected a total of 21 species including sharks, large teleosts, small teleosts, dolphins and one sea turtle, of which 4 are threatened species. Relative abundance and richness of LPS was significantly higher at shallow seamounts (<400m) compared to deeper ones (>400m) suggesting that seamount depth could be an important driver structuring LPS assemblages along the Cocos Ridge. Our cameras provided the first visual evidence of the schooling behaviour of S. lewini at two shallow seamounts outside the protection limits of Cocos and Galapagos Islands. However, further research is still needed to demonstrate a positive association between LPS and Cocos Ridge seamounts. Our findings showed that drifting pelagic BRUVS are an effective tool to survey LPS in fully pelagic ecosystems of the ETP. This study represents the first step towards the standardization of this technique throughout the region.

bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.09.417493


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