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National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Implementation: Biological and Socioeconomic Monitoring

This project began in October 2013 and is Ongoing

The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) is a framework for conducting sustained observations of biological, climate, and socioeconomic indicators at 10 priority coral reefs across the U.S. and its territories. This integrated approach will consolidate monitoring of coral reefs under a uniform method in the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. NCRMP is funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and supported by NCCOS and many other partners.

Why We Care
Coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing global populations with goods and services, including food, storm protection, and recreational opportunities. When coral reefs are threatened by climate change, unsustainable consumption, and land-based pollution, nearby communities and cultures are also at risk. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program has enlisted our support and that of other partners to stand watch over the condition of these fragile systems, including the people and communities closely connected to them.

The NCRMP provides a steady flow of scientific information required to track the health of coral reefs. This monitoring plan consists of a broad, overarching framework within which scientific research is conducted to achieve coral reef conservation. The four primary goals of NCRMP are:

  • Monitor the status and trends of coral reef ecosystems (including human communities),
  • Monitor and assess climate-related threats to coral reefs,
  • Provide a consistent flow of data and information to communities in coral reef jurisdictions, and
  • Foster partnerships to expand the scope and scale of coral reef monitoring.

What We Are Doing
We are co-leading biological monitoring missions with NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) to gather data on fish populations and coral reef communities in the U.S. Caribbean, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. Each year, our scientists work closely with NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and local partners to collect biological data from thousands of strategically selected sites. We then use innovative analysis techniques to develop products that give fellow scientists, managers, decision makers and the public a better understanding of a region’s resources and how they are changing over time. Data, reports, and all products (e.g., maps, coral reef images) are available online. (For information on NCRMP biological monitoring in the Pacific, visit the homepage of the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division listed below.)

We also support the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program’s efforts to study the social and economic conditions of communities that depend on coral reefs in seven U.S. states and territories. Socioeconomic topics we address include:

  • Demographics,
  • Use of coral reef resources, and
  • Knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of coral reefs and coral reef management actions

Our social scientists are using indicators—such as participation in coral reef activities, and population change and distribution near coral reefs—developed in consultation with stakeholders, partners, and other scientists to understand both the impacts of society on coral reefs and the contributions of healthy corals to nearby residents. These indicators will be measured through surveys of residents and the collection of existing socioeconomic data from secondary sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and local government agencies. This social component will be presented alongside biological and climate data to give a more robust picture of U.S. coral reef ecosystems and the communities connected to them.

Our Impact
Our data and products are essential tools for on-the-ground managers and decision makers charged with conserving these valuable resources for future generations. The products provide a spatial and socioeconomic framework to existing monitoring in the regions, and when combined, form a comprehensive view of coral reefs, related marine life, and adjacent human communities. Historically, our tools and capabilities have assisted coral reef states and territories in:

  • Evaluating marine protected areas,
  • Developing methodologies for measuring social and economic conditions,
  • Documenting how people use coral reef resources in coastal and marine areas,
  • Identifying the presence of endangered marine species,
  • Documenting the spread of invasive marine species,
  • Planning and evaluating coral reef restoration,
  • Documenting and monitoring coral bleaching events, and
  • Responding to vessel grounding and damage to coral reefs.

To date, we have conducted fish and coral monitoring in the U.S. Virgin Islands (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021), Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (2013, 2015, 2018, 2022), Florida (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022) and Puerto Rico (2014, 2016, 2019, 2021).

Next Steps
NCRMP fish and coral monitoring in 2023 will be in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Additional Resources

Click to expand resource list(s).

Products, Datasets & Reports

Atlantic Status Reports and Methodologies

For more information on the data used and the process for calculating scores please see Atlantic methodology document and/or contact Erica Towle.

Biological Survey Datasets:




Socioeconomics Survey Datasets:




Peer-Reviewed Publications

News & Feature Stories

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