In August 2013, Oceana Pacific teamed up with the captain and crew of the research vessel, the Miss Linda, to document deep sea corals and sponges off the rugged Oregon Coast using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and a suite of high definition underwater cameras. The specific areas we explored are ones that we have proposed be protected from bottom trawling off central and northern Oregon as part of Oceana’s July 2013 conservation proposal submitted to the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council—the entity responsible for protecting seafloor habitat and our regional fisheries management.
On the ocean floor, vibrant and beautiful corals, sponges, and invertebrates provide three-dimensional habitat structures critical to supporting healthy populations of groundfish species—like rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, and Pacific cod—as well as non-commercial marine life like sea stars, nudibranchs, and octopuses. Because of the essential role corals and sponges play in supporting healthy fish populations, these habitats warrant special protection under our national fisheries law (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).
In accordance with the EFH review process, Oceana proposed 1,413 square miles off the coast of Oregon, including pristine rocky reef habitats and deep sea canyons and ridges, be protected from bottom trawling. These areas build upon existing conservation areas and support the delicate living seafloor species like gorgonian corals, black corals, stony corals, bubble gum corals, branching sponges, and glass sponges.
In our comprehensive U.S. West Coast proposal, we recommend the most sensitive seafloor habitat off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California be protected under the Essential Fish Habitat law, including submarine canyons, seamounts, and rocky reefs as well as areas that have the highest bycatch of sponges and corals.
This expedition follows similar expeditions conducted by Oceana in 2011 off the coast of southern Oregon, where we captured images and video of never-before-seen seafloor habitats and amazing biological communities. Such expeditions were also performed in 2010 and 2011 off the coast of Monterey Bay, California which further supported Oceana’s efforts to protect key ocean hotspots.
Identifying and documenting the ocean’s most sensitive hotspots is a critical step to ensuring a vibrant ocean ecosystem that includes a healthy ocean food web and sustainable fisheries into the future.