This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: On their last day in Washington, the team saw an orca, spiny dogfish, techno-colored crabs and more.
Washington Leg, Final Day
As we prepped the ROV for its first dive, an orca slowly made its way around the island, easily identified by its magnificent tall, black dorsal fin. It was dinner time as we arrived at Kellett Bluff in Puget Sound. A harbor seal moved effortlessly across the surface of the water carrying its dinner, a large salmon. As we readied for the dive, more rhinoceros auklets feasted on sandlance.
Once the ROV was deployed we soon saw several spiny dogfish swimming back and forth in front of the camera’s path. This grey shark is important because it serves as both predator and prey, and this abundant little shark can have large effects on its ocean ecosystem. It’s also important to note that spiny dogfish reproduce in a way that makes them extremely vulnerable to overfishing. The age at which they reproduce has been estimated to be from 10 to 20 and even 30 years.
In Andrew’s Bay the crabs stole the show. A crab that can only be described as techno-colored perched on a rock. It was miraculously camouflaged despite its bright orange and red colors. Another intriguing crab was wearing a hydroid coral as a headpiece. It proudly wore this fanned coral with a height equal to the length of the crab’s body.
Camouflage allows an otherwise visible organism or object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. But in this case it seems the crab may be using the coral to attract smaller prey looking for coral shelter. Whatever the purpose, this crab put on quite the show.
Oceana visited amazing places in California, Oregon, and Washington in the past few months. Our team conducted more than 40 dives with the ROV, took some incredible surface and underwater footage, documented several areas no one had ever seen before, and completely changed the scientific understanding of some of these areas.
The expedition concluded as we watched a bald eagle silently perched on a dock as the sun set behind the mountains. Pink, orange, and yellow hues of the setting sun reflected on the calm ocean’s surface. A perfect ending to a successful expedition!