Monterey, CA. Today Oceana launches the first of a three-part scientific expedition exploring Important Ecological Areas (IEAs) in the ocean with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and high definition video camera. The West Coast expedition commences in Monterey Bay this week, followed by a week off the southern Oregon coast and a week in the Olympic Coast off Washington state.
This year’s expedition builds on Oceana’s pilot California Current Large Marine Ecosystem expedition conducted in Monterey Bay last fall where high definition video captured spectacular never before seen underwater areas. A sampling of the amazing biodiversity and vivid colors of our underwater backyard included coral gardens, sponges, rocky reefs, numerous adult and juvenile fish, octopus, sea pens, swarms of tiny krill, deep rocky canyon walls and high rocky pinnacles.
The expedition goal is to identify and characterize seafloor habitats in each of the three regions to inform management decisions on existing and future ocean protection efforts, and educate the public about the splendor and importance of the ocean floor as habitat for healthy oceans.
The Monterey Bay portion of the expedition will focus on augmenting sites explored last year in deeper depths (up to 1,200 feet) and survey areas currently protected from bottom trawling that are under threat of being re-opened to this destructive practice. Bottom trawling is the most damaging fishing method to the West Coast ocean floor, dragging weighted nets along the seafloor, catching high levels of untargeted species, and flattening structures (such as corals and sponges) that provide complex habitat for fish and other marine life on the seabed.
The expedition is an integral step in Oceana’s efforts to identify, protect, and monitor Important Ecological Areas, which are ocean hotspots critical to maintaining ecosystem health. Important Ecological Areas off the West Coast include places like migration routes, sensitive seafloor habitats, breeding and spawning areas, nursery areas for young fish and wildlife, and foraging areas.
Video and still images will be available on Oceana Facebook, our website (www.oceana.org – click on ‘Our Work’ then ‘Oceana on the Water’) and will be added to Google Earth. This project is in partnership with CSU Monterey Bay, Sealife Conservation, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Media and guests are invited to come aboard the research sailboat, the Derek M. Baylis, and join us for the day. Interested parties, please call Ashley Blacow at (831) 324-7484 to reserve a space. High definition video footage and images will be available for interested media.
What: Oceana Important Ecological Areas Expedition
When: June 13-17, 2011
Where: Monterey Bay, departing daily from Fisherman’s Wharf