Found: deep sea corals
by John Hocevar
July 30, 2007
What a day! This was our third day in Pribilof Canyon, and it was a good one. Kenneth and David took the subs down to about 1,000 feet, and right away they radioed up that they were in a "rich coral area." They surveyed a vast field of soft corals, which provided habitat for a diverse array of invertebrates and fish. This was an exciting find, and one that should make a powerful case for protecting the canyon seafloor from destructive fishing practices – like bottom trawling AND bottom trawling masquerading as "pelagic" or "mid-water" trawling.
One of the things that makes the canyons so important is that they are deep enough to have served as refuges from fishing… at least until recently. Now trawlers can easily drag their nets down to a kilometer or more, so even these areas have come under threat. The uppper walls of the canyons are among the most heavily fished areas in the Bering Sea.
As if the dive itself wasn’t enough, Kenneth was visited by a pod of Dall’s porpoises, which were highly intrigued by his submarine. I was just watching the video of his experience, and it looked like he was surrounded by salsa-dancing porpoise shaped missiles. These things were FAST, and really left us with the feeling that it would be fun to be a porpoise.
The other exciting thing was that we got the ROV up and running today, which gave us a chance to get into even deeper water. We saw quite a few corals and sponges, some big old rockfish, a giant cod that probably got that way by living deeper than all his cousins, and a good smattering of king crabs. There were also some satisfyingly weird deep sea creatures, like a wolf fish, a kind of squid we haven’t seen before, and (my personal pick for deep sea weirdo of the expedition so far) a giant pink snail fish.
I’m looking forward to sharing our photos with you – stay tuned!