monterey bay

Hydrocorals and Octopuses in the Monterey Shale Beds

Posted Mon, Jun 20, 2011 by wrace to california, diving, fisherman's wharf, hydrocorals, monterey bay, nudibranchs, octopus, purple sea urchin, ROV, wolf eel

hydrocorals

Spectacular hydrocorals cover a pinnacle. © Oceana

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: octupuses, hydrocorals and nudibranchs!

California Leg, Days 4-5

Friday concluded the Monterey portion of the expedition, and we had high hopes and much enthusiasm for the last day. We successfully completed three fantastic dives exploring three unique habitats.

This section of the expedition involves two ROVs, a compact one able to capture footage in more shallow depths and one designed to dive much deeper. The crew is still making improvements to the larger ROV so we used the smaller one to document bottom habitat consisting of sand, boulders, and large white sponges inside Point Pinos reef; the pinnacles at Asilomar State Marine Reserve; and investigated marine life hiding within the ledges of the Monterey Shale Beds.

The strong swells we had been working against all week calmed a bit under the overcast sky. Special guests joining us today included scientists from the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, a reporter and photographer from the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper, and documentary filmmakers from Sea Studios.

Our dive within the newly established Asilomar State Marine Reserve was truly extraordinary. We were pleasantly surprised to see that this marine protected area contained such large pinnacles, equivalent in splendor and color to what we observed further south near Carmel earlier in the week.


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Close Encounters With Humpback Whales and Orcas

Posted Thu, Jun 16, 2011 by Ashley Blacow to carmel pinnacles, diving, humpback whale, killer whale, marine life, monterey bay, orca whale, pacific hotspots

orca

An orca breaching in Monterey Bay. © Oceana/Geoff Shester

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: humpback whales and orcas!

California Leg, Day 3

Yesterday was a spectacular day as we saw some of the most colorful and rich habitats we’ve seen yet! The objective was to gather footage from some of the more spectacular areas of pinnacles and rocky reefs that we started to explore last year.

At the outer edge of the Monterey Peninsula, just off Pebble Beach, is a spectacular reef that we explored last year. While golfers marveled at the sites from the world famous course on shore, we marveled at the wildlife above and below the ocean offshore. 

We brought several guests with us including a representative from Mission Blue, another organization focusing on ocean exploration and conservation. The weather was sunny and warm, however a medium-sized southerly swell made the ride a bit bumpy and our cable operators got soaked.

The Carmel Pinnacles were protected as a marine reserve in 2008. This combination of rocky reef at the edge of a steep canyon wall that drops thousands of feet provides a rich feeding ground, as nutrient-rich water is pulled up from the deep through a process called upwelling. 

As we set our ROV equipment up for the first dive, we saw two large humpback whales swimming right by our boat. We explored a depth range of 90-150 feet. The habitat was composed of large pinnacles and boulders, jutting out of a sandy seabed. Nestled in the cracks and crevices were china rockfish, gopher rockfish, and treefish, while we encountered several schools of black rockfish hovering at the tops of the reefs.


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A Trove of Marine Life in Monterey Bay

Posted Tue, Jun 14, 2011 by Ashley Blacow to crabs, diving, expedition, humpback whale, mola mola, monterey bay, ocean sunfish, pacific ocean, porpoises, sea otter

jellyfish

© Oceana

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition.

California Leg, Day 2

This morning after we passed the barking sea lions on the breakwater at the end of the harbor, we traversed through fog so thick there were no signs of land anywhere to be seen. We pushed trough swells upwards of 6 feet to get to our fist dive site of the day. A mola mola (aka ocean sunfish) we passed along the way didn’t seem to mind the intense swells as it basked on the ocean surface.

After motoring out 20 miles across Monterey Bay (north of the Monterey Canyon), we deployed the ROV at the former California halibut trawl grounds. As a direct result of the work of Oceana, this area has been closed to bottom trawling since 2006.

The seafloor here is primarily soft sediment and ranges in depth from 50-250 feet. The areas were teeming with signs of life, including burrows, tracks, and holes. Some places had a lot of juvenile fish and crabs suggesting these areas may be a nursery ground for fishery species. Overall, we were surprised by the diversity of habitat formations and creatures.


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Exploring the Monterey Shale Beds

Posted Mon, Jun 13, 2011 by Ashley Blacow to diving, expedition, gorgonians, monterey bay, monterey shale beds, sea cucumbers

sunflower star

A sunflower star feeds on the Monterey Bay seafloor. © Oceana

This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition.

Day 1:

Today, in beautiful Monterey, Oceana kicked off the first part of a three-week research cruise. This week we are aboard the research vessel Derek M. Baylis, focusing on Important Ecological Areas (ocean hotspots) in Monterey Bay.

Today’s goal consisted of conducting trial runs with the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) called Video Ray Pro IV as well as allowing the Oceana crew from South America, Alaska, Oregon, and California to get our sea legs and refine our on-board duties. With a small High Definition camera on the ROV, we recorded about an hour of footage at each of the four sites we visited.

At the Monterey Shale Beds, at depths up to 125 feet, we observed a myriad of life in the nooks and crannies including sea cucumbers, anemones, gobies, juvenile rockfish, kelp rockfish, sculpins, gorgonian corals, an octopus, a wolf eel, and a metridium (an anemone that looks like white cauliflower). We watched a sunflower star feeding and a sheep crab that was not so ‘sheepish’ as it instigated a wrestling match with the ROV.


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