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!