Bering witness in a mini-sub

Feature story - 14 August, 2007
Our good ship Esperanza is currently out in the Bering Sea, one of the world's wildest oceans. Situated between Alaska and Kamchatka at the western edge of Russia, the Bering covers over 2 million square km of the northernmost region of the Pacific Ocean, and is home to some of the largest unexplored submarine canyons on the planet.

A sample of Plumarella, a soft coral collected at a depth of 1013' (300 metres) during undersea research of Pribilof Canyon in the Bering Sea.

The Esperanza is returning to the region to continue research work begun in2006 - exposing the impacts of overfishing, and documenting some ofthese previously unexplored canyon habitats. And this time, to makelife a little easier and even more exciting Esperanza is equipped withtwo new mini-submarines capable of diving over 1,000 metres to bringback photos and video from the depths.

So far large tracts ofcold-water corals are being found at between 50 to 1,000 metres. Theseslow-growing colonies can have lifespans of hundreds or even thousandsof years, and act as refuges for all kinds of fish species. They arecrucial to the continued existence of this ocean ecosystem, but arealso extremely vulnerable to being wiped out by one drag from a bottomtrawler's net.

Join the Espy and crew on the Bering Witness 2007 tour as they make acompelling case for the creation of marine reserves to ensure theconservation of these important habitats, which are believed to containspecies found nowhere else on earth. Check out the crew's weblog.

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