Exploring the Largest Underwater Canyons in the World
by John Hocevar
July 25, 2012
New findings strengthen the case for protecting the Bering Sea Canyons
Building on the research we did in the Bering Sea Canyons in 2007, Greenpeace completed 14 successful submarine dives in July 2012. Explorers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Waitt Institute, and Greenpeace conducted video surveys in Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons, collecting valuable data on the marine life in these unique areas.
Launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, the submarine was a powerful tool to obtain information that will help scientists, fishermen, and policy makers to better understand the importance of the canyons. We saw juvenile rockfish hiding out in sponges and fish and crab hiding next to corals, further evidence that delicate corals and sponges provide critical habitat for fish and other creatures. We documented steep walls carpeted in marine life, rivaling tropical coral reefs in beauty and diversity.
Perhaps the most surprising find was the discovery of a large skate nursery, with thousands of egg cases. Skates have very low reproductive rates, with eggs often taking more than three years to hatch, so protecting their nursery areas is vital to ensuring the survival of skate populations.
Now, together with independent scientists from Scripps, the University of California Santa Barbara and elsewhere, we will analyze what we have found and share the results with US government scientists who are preparing a review of the canyons. This review will inform the public discussion about what types of new management and conservation measures are needed for these Grand Canyons of the Sea.