2012 Exploration: Deep-sea Corals

farallones escarpment

From October 3 to October 12, 2012 staff from Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, United States Geological Survey, Marine Applied Research and Exploration, and California Academy of Sciences participated in a research cruise to explore and map deep-sea corals and sponges, associated fish and invertebrates, and document impacts from marine debris and bottom contact fishing gear. Funding for this project is through NOAA's Deep-sea Coral Research and Technology Program.

View a preliminary video from the first several days of the research cruise onboard the R/V FULMAR to Rittenburg Bank, Cochrane Bank (previously unnamed bank between Fanny Shoal and Farallon Escarpment), and Farallon Escarpment. Samples of corals and sponges have been collected to fully identify species through DNA analysis.

This project has been identified as one of four research priorities in the West Coast Deep-sea Corals and Sponges (DSC) Science Plan for FY2012. The project will provide a better understanding of the location, distribution, and abundance of DSC within the GFNMS; and better define the role of sponges and corals as Essential Fish Habitat, specifically the associations between fish and DSCs. Remotely Operated Vessel (ROV) surveys will be guided by results from the 2011 multibeam mapping effort. The supported management issues that are addressed through this research are:

  1. Provide information to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Review Committee on Rittenburg Bank, West Fanny Shoal and/or portions of the Farallon Escarpment;
  2. Aid in the determination of Habitat Areas of Particular Concern;
  3. Identify areas for Essential Fish Habitats for the Strategic Plan for Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems; and
  4. Provide baseline of deep-sea corals and sponge habitats that will serve as sentinel sites for ocean acidification monitoring and identification of impacts within an upwelling region.