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Finding Coral: The Race to Save Deepsea Coral

June 30 2017
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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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Mission Underway

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.