The quillback rockfish is one of more than 35 species of rockfish found in to coastal waters of British Columbia. (CCIRA)

Deep ocean exploration reveals first views of rich ecosystem

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A large expedition off Canada’s western coast has yielded high-definition video of life 200 metres below the surface. The area explored included stunning fjords and deep waters of great cultural ecological, cultural and economic significance.

“This is the first time that we’ve had a chance to really see what’s down there,” says Alexandra Cousteau, senior advisor to Oceana and granddaughter of the famous marine explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Glass sponges live deep in the water. They are filter-feeders that build intricate skeletons made out of silica (glass). (DFO)

‘Really excited’

“We’ve been really excited about the diversity that we’ve seen there—the habitat structure on the rocky reefs and boulders allowed us to see organisms like large, red tree corals and bubble gum corals, large mushroom or pom-pom-shaped sea anemones, sponges and other species that provide a complex structure for diversity,” says Cousteau.

Led by Oceana Canada, the expedition was a massive joint effort between the Canadian government’s department of fisheries and oceans, first nations groups and Ocean Networks Canada. The Canadian Coast Guard ship Vector set out on March 7th with a camera that was lowered in the ocean and fed live images back to the ship. These were live streamed on Oceana’s website and highlights are posted there.

Alexandra Cousteau says the information gathered will help protect those important marine habitats and rebuild fish populations. (Carlos Minguell/Oceana)

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‘We are all connected to our oceans’

The information collected will help identify important areas to protect. “That’s what’s tremendously exciting about it,” says Couteau. “We’re looking at mapping this area for marine planning purposes…so that the abundance and diversity of this part of the Canadian coastline can be protected from human threat…

“At Oceana we believe that we are all connected to our oceans and our oceans are important for a healthy planet. They provide us with a sustainable source of protein, with recreation and inspiration, jobs and income for coastal communities.

“This kind of science, this kind of exploration allows us to protect those important marine habitats and rebuild fish populations to abundance. We can’t continue to overfish our oceans and expect them to support our communities.”

The Vector was equipped with a camera which captured video footage from the seafloor and a research lab for scientists. (Oceana/Evermaven)

Unlike tropical corals, these deep-water corals are suspension feeders, eating particles filtered from the water. (Tunnicliffe/UVic/CSSF/DFO)

Ship in beautiful seascape.

The Vector plied the waters of British Columbia’s stunning central coast.(Oceana/Evermaven)

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