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Nursery Rhymes for Skates

by John Hocevar

July 18, 2012

Jackie and her companion went down the canyon

In a little submarine

They found thousands of egg cases and with smiling faces

Shared what they had seen

Originally posted on Deep Sea News

We are using the Waitt Institutes Dual DeepWorker submarine to explore the largest underwater canyons in the world, on the Bering Sea shelf break. Were building on research we began here several years ago, to inform a review of the science and management of the canyons that we expect will lead to new protections for these areas.

As with any deep sea exploration, much of what we are finding is surprising. So far, the most unexpected discovery was a large skate nursery in Zhemchug Canyon, with thousands of egg cases and numerous adult skates. I have been following off and on the discussions at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council about protecting several known skate nurseries, but until seeing one first hand I had little idea what they really looked like!

It was a great dive right from the start. We were on a pinnacle on the western edge of Zhemchug Canyon, and dropped in at 250 meters to find ourselves on a steep wall covered in sponges, corals, and other invertebrates. Just when the slope started to level off, we started seeing the skate eggs. THOUSANDS of skate eggs, piled on top of each other in heaps, as far as we could see (which, to be fair, wasnt all that far). It looks like they are from either the Bering skate or the Alaska skate or (so scandalous!) maybe both.

Check out the expedition website for more images and updates. Well be diving in Pribilof Canyon next, and then were headed up to the Chukchi Sea.

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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