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.
Oceana and others have been working to establish a marine protected area and marine reserve at Siletz Reef for over nine years. Marine reserves are areas where taking any marine life is prohibited. Other types of protected areas prohibit some activities, like bottom trawling, but other activities like recreational fishing are allowed. Around the world, scientists have demonstrated that reserves and protected areas are a huge success for protecting sensitive ocean habitats and helping fish and wildlife populations thrive. In 2012 we were successful. The Oregon legislature passed a bill designating a marine reserve and protected areas for the Cascade Head and Siletz Reef area, as well as two others at Cape Perpetua and Cape Falcon off the Oregon coast. These new protections will go into effect January 1, 2014, so our footage will contribute important baseline data as scientists study how these habitats change over time.
Because of our long standing interest in this area, we were thrilled to dive here with the ROV. What we saw was spectacular. In the southern portion of the reef that will become a protected area, we saw canary rockfish, China rockfish, schools of juvenile rockfish, blue rockfish, lingcod, kelp greenling and others. Cup corals, large white sun anemones, beds of hot pink strawberry anemones and orange zoanthids covered large boulders and rocky outcrops. In what will become the marine reserve we recorded dense gardens of bright red gorgonian corals, intricate branching sponges, bright blue nudibranchs, sea cucumbers many more inverts, plus flatfish and Dungeness crab in the sandy habitats adjacent to the reef. We successfully recorded more than three hours of high definition video, which we will analyze later to fully quantify the fish and invertebrates we saw today.
Tired, but running on excitement only, we ended the day anchored in the lee of the sheer cliffs with nesting seabird colonies at Cape Lookout, entertained by a magnificent sunset and looking forward to our next day on the great Pacific.