Finding Coral: The Race to Save Deepsea Coral

Latest update June 18, 2018 Started on June 30, 2017
sea

Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) is launching an expedition to map and document deep sea corals off the California coast

June 30, 2017
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Debriefing Stage

The OpenROV Trident and MARE's ROV Beagle getting to know each other in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.

The MARE team just returned from Santa Barbara Channel Islands where we documented never before deep-sea corals while aboard a NOAA research ship. Deploying our remotely operated submarine, we collected important information about the location and abundance of these fragile species, allowing for improved protection measures to be implemented.

Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE), in partnership with Marine Conservation Institute (MCI), the National Oceanic Administration’s (NOAA) and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, recently returned from our expedition to locate deep-seal corals off the northern Channel Islands. Our team visited never before seen areas off the coast of Santa Barbara during an 8-day research expedition aboard the NOAA’s research ship the R/V Shearwater. Our ROV Beagle made 22 dives in 7 study areas in effort to discover new deep-sea coral habitats.


From our recent expedition, over ten species of deep-sea corals were documented around San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz Islands, including the reef building stony coral Lophelia and many other important deep-water soft coral species such as bubble gum corals, black corals, mushroom soft corals, and at least six species of sea fans. All georeferenced imagery collected during the expedition will be analyzed by MARE and NOAA biologists, helping to expand our understanding of how these ecosystems function.

Deep-sea corals provide critical habitat that supports a variety of life including rockfish and other commercially important species. In addition, these hot spots of biodiversity may hold new biomedical discoveries, yielding potential cures to diseases such as cancer. While little is known about their abundance and distribution, they remain under threat from deep-sea trawling, oil and gas exploration and deep-sea mining. The lack of precise information on where to find deep-sea corals is hampering protection efforts.

With much of our oceans still poorly studied, data collected from our expedition will be used to expand our understanding of deep-sea coral distribution and to further the development of predictive models. Refinement of modeling results will help give researchers and resource manager’s access to important information about the location and abundance of these fragile species, allowing for improved protection measures to be implemented.

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Mission Underway

Boy that GoPro is heavy!!


OpenROV Trident swimming around ROV Beagle off Anacapa Islands in Santa Barbara Channel Islands during Deep Sea Coral Expedition.

This was filmed by MARE's ROV Beagle at 15 meters deep as were practicing our Trident piloting skills.

Time lapse of ROV Beagle recovery off the NOAA R/V Shearwater around Santa Cruz Island in Santa Barbara Channel Islands.
The ROV Beagle was built to gather marine habitat and biological information from a ship of opportunity. The Beagle is used for image, sample and data collection in the ocean environment at depths of 15 m to 1,000 m. The ROV system is fully integrated with an array of video cameras, lights, scaling lasers, a digital still camera, 5 function manipulator, multi-beam sonar, USBL tracking, CTD+DO2, altimeters and recording equipment.

Good job, Paul. I love these videos because they show how much work goes into getting this type of footage.

It's a bird, it's a plane... its a bat ray!!


OpenROV Trident footage of bat ray in Santa Barbara Channel Islands during Deep Sea Coral Cruise

We are getting the first images back from the Deep Sea Coral Expedition in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. We were able to visit and document never before seen areas of the deep ocean, including the rough and remote portion of western San Miguel Island! The images and data collected on this trip enable us to map and protect sensitive deep-sea coral habitat which is essential for fish populations and ocean health.
We observed deep sea corals, rockfish, lingcod, soft corals, California king crab and many more sea creatures.

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Beautiful!

These are so cool Natasha!

Packing for a ROV expedition requires a lot of equipment and takes time! Check out the size of the ROV Beagle and its accompanying equipment compared to the OpenROV boxes!!
Less is more! :)

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First images coming in from Deep Sea Coral Expedition in the Channel Islands with Marine Conservation Institute...
The ocean has been a bit rough, but MARE's Beagle ROV has explored new areas off San Miguel Island. Including a siphonophore hovering over sand tied down by outriggers, CA king crabs, dozens of round boulders at 200 meters covered in sea life, purple gorgonians and an electric ray.

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Beautiful! Excited to see the videos, too!

Preparation Stage

MARE hosted an Open House at the Point Richmond workshop to show folks how the ROV Beagle is deployed and to learn more about the Deep Sea Coral Expedition.

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How do you plan an underwater expedition to document rare deep-sea corals extremely difficult to find?


Find out more about the process of developing mapping tools that Marine Conservation Institute and MARE will use on the expedition to explore the deep seafloor within the NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is home to an astonishing diversity of cold-water corals and sponges that build crucial habitat for a large number of fish and invertebrate species.

http://www.californiaseamounts.org/2018/05/08/expedition-101-how-models-help-ocean-deep-sea-exploration/

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The ROV Beagle is getting a tuneup for the upcoming expedition. The CTD sensor has been calibrated and we have reconfigured the onscreen display. We will be putting the ROV in the water on May 5th to fully test it for the upcoming expedition at the MARE Open House - https://www.maregroup.org/richmond-open-house.html


The Beagle was built by MARE to gather marine habitat and biological information from a ship of opportunity. The Beagle is used for image, sample and data collection in the ocean environment at depths of 15 m to 1,000 m. The ROV system is fully integrated with an array of video cameras, lights, scaling lasers, a digital still camera, 5 function manipulator, multi-beam sonar, USBL tracking, CTD+DO2, altimeters and recording equipment.

Deep-sea corals are the building blocks of the seafloor - essential structure for fish and invertebrate species, including those species we depend upon for food. Human impacts including bottom trawling and ever expanding seabed mining have caused severe damage to our planet’s deep ocean ecosystems, and the rate of damage is accelerating.
Worldwide these "ancient forests" are being lost and the cascading effects are already being observed. Currently we know very little about these fragile ecosystems, including where they are even located - limiting efforts to protect them. During our 2018 expedition, our biologists and engineers will gather new information about deep-sea corals in unexplored areas off the highly productive Southern California coast. With your help, we will discover these hot spots of biodiversity that are poorly studied and disappearing fast.

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The expedition is approaching fast!


Find out why it's critical to find and protect deep-sea corals. https://www.maregroup.org/deep-sea-corals-and-sponges.html

Great to have MARE sharing their expedition here, Natasha. Mesophotic corals are so important, and these expeditions help shine a light on these critical ecosystems.

Expedition Background

Background


Like their shallow-water cousins, deep-sea corals support a high diversity and abundance of life, including many fish and invertebrates of commercial importance. Their dark, cold, nutrient-poor habitat means that deep-sea corals grow extremely slowly, though they can live to great age – a black coral taken off Hawai’i was estimated to be 4,265 years old, and thousand-year old specimens are common.

Deep-sea corals are globally threatened by the expanding footprint of bottom trawling. A single pass of a trawl net can destroy a coral habitat that has taken millennia to grow. Consequently, the United Nations has declared that deep-sea corals and their associated ecosystems need immediate protection from destructive fishing practices. The challenge is to find the corals before they are trawled so that they can be protected.

Deep-sea corals are the building blocks of the seafloor - essential structure for fish and invertebrate species, including those species we depend upon for food. Human impacts including bottom trawling and ever expanding seabed mining have caused severe damage to our planet’s deep ocean ecosystems, and the rate of damage is accelerating.

Worldwide these "ancient forests" are being lost and the cascading effects are already being observed. Currently we know very little about these fragile ecosystems, including where they are even located - limiting efforts to protect them.

Project Description

Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) and Marine Conservation Institute (MCI) have joined together to find and protect sensitive deep-sea corals.

Deploying our unmanned robotic submarine, we will discover and document our ocean’s deep seafloor environments, collecting vital information needed to implement protection. Our eight day expedition aboard the NOAA ship R/V Shearwater will depart Santa Barbara, California, on May 14th to explore never seen before seafloor structures near the Northern Channel Islands. High definition video and still imagery will be collected using the ROV Beagle to depths exceeding 2,000 feet deep.

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This is an incredible expedition. Excited to be following along.

I'm really excited to follow along. Let me know if you ever need any extra help from other deep-sea experts.

Really interesting expedition. I can't wait to see what you turn up while exploring the Deep-sea coral.

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