Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species

The nearshore and offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico are critically important breeding or non-breeding habitats for many species of seabirds from North America, the Caribbean, and Western Europe. Historically, limited information regarding the species composition, distribution, and abundance of seabirds has been available to inform planning decisions, policy analyses, or risk models in the region, hindering our ability to plan for or respond to data needs during oil and gas activities. 

Research:

We are conducting vessel-based surveys for pelagic seabirds in the northern Gulf of Mexico as part of the newly initiated Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (GoMMAPS). In what is now the most extensive at-sea survey for seabirds in the Gulf, 15 surveys were conducted since 2017 (totaling more than 200 days at sea) using NOAA vessels to assess the abundance and distribution of birds utilizing the pelagic environment. 

Preliminary results have shown high numbers of non-breeding Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) in the Mississippi River delta and Western Gulf; a widespread presence of Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), a tropical species commonly associated with coastal environments, in pelagic waters; an extended presence of European-breeding Band-rumped Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma castro) in US waters from March to September; and the regular occurrence of Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata). Future data analysis will evaluate patterns in occurrence and abundance across space and time. 

Collaborators

Patrick Jodice, USGS South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Jeff Gleason, USFWS

Chris Haney, Terra Mar Applied Sciences

Pamela Michael, South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Yvan Satgé, South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Funding

U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

More information

You can learn more about the other components of GoMMAPPS at boem.gov/GOMMAPPS, including research methods, status and updates, and field blogs.