The Beacon: Ben Enticknap's blog
Yesterday was a big day for little fish. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal body responsible for managing most U.S. West Coast fisheries, took another step toward implementing comprehensive measures to protect the ocean food web. In its first “ecosystem initiative,” the Council is working to prohibit new directed commercial fishing on currently unmanaged, unfished forage species in the federal Pacific Ocean waters (3 to 200 miles) offshore Washington, Oregon, and California.
August 27, 2013
Today was the final day of our Pacific research expedition off the Oregon coast. We left Newport before daybreak bound for Stonewall Bank, more than 15 miles west. The seas calmed overnight and we had perfect conditions for conducting our research dives.
August 26, 2013
We didn’t know what we might find in the Heceta Bank region off the central Oregon coast. It is one of the largest reef complexes off the Pacific Northwest coast, once nominated to be a National Marine Sanctuary because of its ecological significance. There have been a few research dives in the area, but nobody has done underwater surveys in the area we were going to today.
August 25, 2013
Daisy to North Heceta Bank
Today we completed two dives on the north/northwest slope of Daisy Bank. Seven hundred feet below the surface we saw small red gorgonian corals attached to large boulders, glass sponge, barrel sponge, rockfish and box crab. At one point a large ray flew right under our ROV.
August 24, 2013
We faced some new challenges today and took some new risks. We made our deepest dive yet with the ROV to 1,170 feet. We also did our first night dive.
After sunset we dove the ROV to 600 feet at Daisy Bank. The area is currently protected from bottom trawling as an “essential fish habitat conservation area” as a result of Oceana’s 2005 proposal to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. We are now proposing expanding the area to include additional sensitive habitat features adjacent to the current site.
August 23, 2013
We spent the night last night drifting aboard the Miss Linda, forty miles offshore. The seas stayed calm and we were rocked to sleep by a gentle ocean swell. This morning we dove on an area we’ve named the “Siletz Hotspot”. Far west of the Siletz River estuary, this area appears to be a relative hotspot for coral and sponge bycatch observed in the West Coast groundfish bottom trawl fishery. We did not know what we would find, a heavily trawled seafloor or islands of undisturbed paradise.
August 21, 2013
Siletz Reef/ Cascade Head
Today we departed Newport at 5 a.m. bound for the Siletz Reef off Lincoln City, Oregon. Large ocean swells rocked us in our bunks as Captain Bob Pedro steered the Miss Linda to our first dive site. We’ve been planning this expedition for many months and the excitement and anticipation was all leading to this. None of us were sure exactly what our ROV would reveal below the surface of the ocean, and we were eager to find out.
August 20, 2013
Pacific Important Ecological Area Expedition
Kicking off our 2013 Pacific Expedition, our Oceana crew arrived yesterday in Portland, Oregon, from Chile, California, and Alaska and united with our Oregon expedition leader, Ben Enticknap. Today in Newport, the Port was bustling with activity.
August 22, 2013
South Nehalem Reef
We awoke this morning to calm seas and a beautiful sunrise coming up over Oregon’s Cape Lookout. Knowing it would be the last land we’d see for the next six days, we motored offshore for three hours and arrived at South Nehalem Reef; over 20 miles off the coast. Getting the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) set up, our deployment and retrieval operations had already become second nature. Attracted by the only vessel in sight, hundreds of seabirds flocked our boat. They are likely accustomed to getting a fisherman’s scraps or bycatch tossed overboard. We were joined by albatross, sooty shearwaters, storm petrels, several species of gulls, and our favorites: tufted puffins. But the only thing we were sending over the side of the Miss Linda was our ROV.
Anticipation and excitement is building as Oceana’s U.S. West Coast staff prepares for seven days at sea exploring and filming largely undocumented coral and sponge colonies off the coast of Oregon!
We will be deploying a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) along offshore banks and canyons containing rocky reefs and soft substrates at depths up to 1,300 feet. Some of these areas, including North Heceta Bank and Siletz Hotspot have not previously been explored with an ROV. During the expedition we hope to capture footage of glass sponges, gorgonian corals, black corals, sea whips, and more.
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