The Beacon: Ben Enticknap's blog

New Seafloor Discoveries off Oregon

Offshore Oregonian ready for its close-up ©Oceana

Today we release our new science report, Important Ecological Areas: Seafloor Habitat Expedition off the Southern Oregon Coast. The report completes our June 2011 expedition aboard the R/V Miss Linda, which set out on the cold Pacific Ocean waters off Oregon to survey deep unchartered ocean habitats. In places too deep or too rugged for SCUBA gear, we executed 17 dives with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) mounted with a high definition camera. What we saw was thrilling!

As the lights of the ROV flashed on the dark seafloor, brightly colored cold-water corals came into focus and large sponge mounds lit up with small shrimp clinging to their sides. We encountered plant-like bryozoans, alien-looking basket stars, and schools of rockfish hovering over the reefs and under the branches of fern-like feather stars called crinoids. On one dive we witnessed over five hundred widow rockfish, once an overfished species, and we also saw juvenile yelloweye rockfish that are still overfished and are not likely to recover for the next 70 years.  

The report documents the cold-water corals, sponges, and physical habitat features in areas previously unseen. It also describes the managed fish species and their associations with these habitats. Importantly, many of these areas are not protected in any type of marine protected area. Oceana submitted this report today to the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council and we will be calling for these areas to be protected from the impacts of activities like bottom trawling. The nearshore reefs at Cape Arago have also been an area of interest for a marine reserve and we hope this new science bolsters the call to protect these ocean treasures.  

We’re excited to share these deep sea findings and can’t wait to get back on the water!

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Forage Fish Should Stay in the Ocean

California anchovies

California Anchovies [Image credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons]

Editor's Note: This post was co-written by Ben Enticknap and Geoff Shester

Yesterday a task force of thirteen distinguished scientists from around the globe released a new report, “little fish BIG IMPACT” that investigates the science of ocean food webs, the critical role of forage species, and the urgent need for changing fishery management approaches.  In the most comprehensive global analysis of forage fish science and management to date, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force details how current management is too risky and how it fails to account for the critical role of forage fish as food for marine mammals, seabirds, and commercially important species such as salmon, tuna, cod and rockfish.  This report validates what Oceana has been pushing for in the fishery management arena for years, and provides conclusive scientific justification for major overhauls in how we manage fisheries for forage fish.

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Exploring Uncharted Territory off Oregon's Coast

Vibrant gorgonian corals near Cape Arago, Oregon. © Oceana

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: On their final day in Oregon, the crew ventures into uncharted territory and finds a variety of corals and fish.

Oregon Leg, Day 5

Friday was our last day aboard the R/V Miss Linda and it could not have been a better day for working on the ocean. We left the Charleston Marina at 7 AM bound for the nearshore reef south of Cape Arago and west of Seven Devils State Park. 

As we were working in and out of Charleston today, we invited guests to join our expedition including Dr. Craig Young, the director of the University of Oregon’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and Dr. Jan Hodder from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.

The University of Oregon has been operating marine studies in the Charleston area since 1924 with year-round research programs beginning in 1966. Dr. Young and his graduate students have made hundreds of deep dives in submersibles and sailed on oceanographic ships in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Yet surprisingly, nobody has ever been to the areas we went Friday with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and underwater camera.

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Exploring Oregon's Coquille Bank

© Oceana

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlight: prehistoric hagfish.

Oregon Leg, Day 4

Today we ran the R/V Miss Linda twenty miles west of Bandon, Oregon to Coquille Bank. This offshore bank, also known as the Bandon High Spot, rises up off the continental shelf break to a relatively shallow 300 feet in depth. Oceana worked to protect this area from bottom trawling in 2005. The regulations went into place in 2006 and now five years after the area was protected, we had the chance to dive there with the ROV. 

In 2007, Drs. Mark Hixon and Brian Tissot published a scientific paper on the effects of bottom trawling at Coquille Bank. They found striking differences in the seafloor communities between heavily trawled and untrawled areas including more fish abundance and more diversity in the untrawled areas. They also found that bottom trawling affects marine life living in soft sediments and not just rocky seafloor habitats.

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Coral Gardens Near Bandon, Oregon

© Oceana/Geoff Shester

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: albatross and coral gardens.

 Oregon Leg, Day 3

Last night we anchored the R/V Miss Linda just north of Bandon, Oregon and two miles offshore. We woke to calm seas and high anticipation for another day of work with the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), surveying seafloor habitats. 

Steaming west about six miles offshore we crossed paths with a rapidly moving pod of dolphins and we were graced with the company of black-footed albatross and sooty shearwaters.

As the ROV descended on the first dive, we passed through a swarm of krill just before reaching the seafloor 300 feet down. At the bottom we saw a garden of colorful corals, sponges and crinoids that looked like sword ferns in an old growth forest. 

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