This week, in the wake of the Blue Ocean Film Festival, Oceana is launching a week-long expedition out of Monterey to explore important ecological areas in the ocean, including underwater seafloor habitats over 1000 feet below the surface with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
California’s Central Coast is home to spectacular habitats and marine life including pinnacles, deep-sea canyons, cold-water corals, sponges, and seamounts. The goal of this pilot project is to identify and capture high definition video footage of seafloor habitats in the region to educate the public and inform management decisions on existing and future protection efforts.
This pilot project, led by Dr. Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California Program Director, is an integral step in Oceana’s efforts to identify and protect Important Ecological Areas that serve as the pillars of ecosystem health, functioning, and biodiversity. Oceana has been gathering data to identify these areas for several years and will now be exploring with an ROV key areas that have not yet been explored by scientists. The ROV just arrived from the Gulf of Mexico where Oceana was using it to explore areas potentially affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Oceana hopes to document in high definition video areas now protected from bottom trawling as the result of Oceana’s advocacy efforts over the last decade, explore areas where trawling still occurs, and find additional areas that may warrant protections. Bottom trawling is the most destructive method of fishing on the West Coast, dragging weighted nets along the seafloor, catching high levels of bycatch, and flattening structures that provide habitat for fish and other marine life on the seabed. The ROV will also look at areas where bottom trawling is currently allowed to evaluate if additional protections of seafloor habitat are needed.
The expedition is an exciting partnership that includes expert advisors at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and California State University Monterey Bay. The pilot project is in partnership with SeaLife Conservation who runs a research and educational sailboat, the Derek M. Baylis, from which the ROV will be launched daily. Oceana hopes to expand this project in the future throughout the Pacific and into the Arctic Ocean.
HD footage and images will be available for interested media.