The Beacon

Blog Tags: Seamounts

Ranger Sets Sail to Explore Seamounts and Sea Canyons

kelp in gorringe bank

Kelp in Portugal’s Gorringe Bank in the Atlantic Ocean. © Oceana/Juan Carlos Calvin

It’s a busy and exciting time of year for our campaigners on the water -- and for those of us who get to see the photos and videos of the incredible marine life and habitats that they send back to land.

As you know if you’ve been following the blog for the past week or so, we have a team off the coast of Oregon right now exploring important ecological areas. And today, our team in Europe is launching its seventh annual summer expedition.

This year the Oceana catamaran, Ranger, will sail for two months through the western Mediterranean and the Atlantic to study seamounts and sea canyons, ocean environments that are rich in biodiversity but relatively unexplored due to their depth and complex terrains. That’s where our scientists, divers and underwater robot (ROV) come in.

In one of the most exciting aspects of this year’s expedition, Oceana will collaborate with Portuguese government officials and scientists to investigate the Gorringe Bank, a little-explored seamount and an oasis of biodiversity southwest of Portugal. Oceana last surveyed these waters in 2005, but this time around, using the ROV, the team will be exploring and documenting areas more than 2,500 feet -- that’s about half a mile! -- below the surface of the ocean.

The ROV will record high-resolution videos and photos, which will ultimately be used to propose the creation of marine protected areas and other conservation measures.

We can’t wait to see what our teams find in the ocean’s depths. We’ll keep you updated as the journey progresses!


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Victory for Seamounts and Deep-sea Corals

A map of the newly protected habitat areas in the Pacific.

Fantastic news from the international negotiations we told you about last week: the talks concluded on Friday with conservation measures that will protect more than 16.1 million square miles of seafloor habitat in the North Pacific Ocean from bottom trawling and other bottom contact gear. 

Delegates also concluded negotiations on a new treaty. Once signed and ratified, it will establish a new fishery management organization charged with sustainably managing North Pacific Ocean fisheries.

Bottom trawls are massive weighted nets that drag along the ocean floor, destroying anything in their path, including ancient coral forests, gardens of anemones and entire fields of sea sponges. Today’s bottom trawlers go deeper and farther from shore than they could ever reach before, into high seas areas populated with slow-growing deep-sea fish and corals that are especially slow to recover from trawling. Nets can be 200 feet wide and 40 feet high, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds and reaching depths of more than 5,000 feet. 


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International Talks Underway to Protect North Pacific

Paragorgia coral, aka bubblegum coral, at the Pratt seamount. © NOAA

The U.S. government is nearing the conclusion of international negotiations for the management of fisheries on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean. These quiet talks have been ongoing since April 2006 and are likely to conclude this week, which has huge implications for the oceans and Oceana’s work in the region.

Oceana has been participating in these meetings as a member of the U.S. delegation since 2007. Oceana’s Pacific Project Manager, Ben Enticknap, is at this week’s meeting in Vancouver, Canada, working to expand Oceana’s approach to freeze the footprint of bottom trawling and protect important ecological areas to international waters.

The negotiations are between the U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, China, Korea and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) and are seeking to establish a new fishery management organization to sustainably manage fisheries on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean, as well as to establish interim measures to protect “vulnerable marine ecosystems” like seamounts, deep-sea corals, sponges and hydrothermal vents from destructive fishing practices.


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