Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

Deep Sea Canyons on Your Desktop

Deep-sea coral caught on camera by the submarine robot tethered to Okeanos. Credit: NOAA

Forget Breaking Bad or Big Brother. The Talking Fish team has been glued to a show we’ve nicknamed OMG Okeanos! The live streaming video from the NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer brings eye-popping images from the ocean floor as scientists maneuver a remotely operated vehicle (or ROV) called Deep Discoverer along the canyons and seamounts at the edge of the continental shelf.

The Okeanos is on a 36-day research cruise of the deep sea canyons of the Northeast U.S. and the Mytilus Seamount. Octopi, crabs, and an occasional eel get some camera time but the stars of the show are the deep water corals: octocorals, cup corals, soft corals, bubble gum corals, and the delicate branches of the bamboo coral.  The slow-growing, cold-water corals are fragile but vital as habitat for other marine life. Scientists know little about their distribution and biology, so the work of the Okeanos crew promises to greatly expand our knowledge.

The research cruise also offers public education thanks to a nice pairing of science and social media. In addition to the video stream, the scientists are posting on Facebook and Twitter. AP science reporter Seth Borenstein also hosted a live Twitter chat with the scientists on Friday which prompted this exchange about efforts to protect deep sea corals:

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is at work on a proposal to protect corals and the three councils covering waters from Maine to Florida recently signed an agreement to coordinate efforts at coral conservation.

Stay tuned for more about actions council might take and tune in to the live video to feed your sense of wonder about our amazing ocean.

 


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