Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition 2018

Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition 2018

Map: Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

Map: Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

The mission

The Pacific Seamounts Expedition is a collaborative effort with:

  • Haida Nation
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
  • Ocean Networks Canada and Oceana Canada

This expedition aims to survey and collect underwater footage of Canadian seamounts in marine conservation areas, including:

  • the large Offshore Pacific Area of Interest (AOI)
  • SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area (MPA)

From July 5 to 21, 2018, scientists were on board Ocean Exploration Trust’s state-of-the-art exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus. They streamed their research live using 2 remotely operated vehicles, and commented live on what they saw!

To hear them and ask your questions, tune in to the Nautilus live website.

The expedition objectives

Identified as ecologically and biologically significant areas, seamounts are important to the resilience of:

  • fisheries
  • marine biodiversity
  • ecosystem functions

This expedition looked at 3 seamounts in particular: SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount and Dellwood and Explorer Seamounts in the Offshore Pacific AOI. The data collected during this mission will:

  • provide insight into the diverse ecosystems of seamounts, for which data is limited
  • help inform the planning and management of these and other seamounts in the area

Specific objectives of the expedition included:

  • establishing long-term monitoring sites on the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount
  • surveying and documenting:
    • ecosystems
    • physical features
    • species distribution
    • observable human impact on the seamounts
  • installing a monitoring system on Dellwood Seamount in the cold-water coral and sponge gardens to gather environmental data
  • surveying the potential hydrothermal vents on Dellwood Seamount
  • creating the first ever charts of Explorer and Dellwood Seamounts using multibeam technology
The area
Offshore Pacific AOI
Offshore Pacific AOI

In May 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced a new large offshore AOI off the coast of British Columbia. This began the extensive process of establishing the area as an MPA under Canada’s Oceans Act. This area was designated as an AOI based on its unique seafloor features and ecosystems, which include several seamounts and a series of hydrothermal vents. The area includes 18 named seamounts, including Dellwood and Explorer, and perhaps as many as 40 in total.

The AOI has interim protection through the Offshore Pacific Seamount and Vents Closure marine refuge, which was established in October 2017. The marine refuge aims to protect the area’s unique ecosystem and prohibits all bottom-contact commercial and recreational fishing activities.

SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA
SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA

Recognized by the Haida Nation as a special and protected place, SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA is located west of Haida Gwaii. It was designated in 2008 to conserve and protect the area’s biodiversity and biological productivity. The MPA encompasses 3 offshore seamounts: Hodgkins, Davidson, and Bowie, which is the largest and the focus for this expedition. To the Haida Nation, the Indigenous people who played a key role in establishing the MPA, Bowie Seamount is called SGaan Kinghlas, meaning "Supernatural Being Looking Outward". Scientists believe that SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie seamount was an active volcanic island during the last ice age.

The Species
The Species

Seamounts are biological hotspots and home to a variety of diverse species including cold-water corals and sponges, and rockfish. Several species under the federal Species at Risk Act have also been recorded at the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA, including:

  • orca whales
  • steller sea lion
  • ancient murrelet
  • boccacio rockfish

The expedition’s research will help to properly protect and conserve these species.

The team
DFO Team

Tammy Norgard
Expedition Lead Scientist, Deep Sea Ecology Program Head, Pacific Biological Station

Tammy evaluates deep seafloor impacts and species distribution with mapping/models of offshore seamounts. She collaborates with academics and First Nations to:

  • conduct research
  • monitor ecologies
  • gather baseline and monitoring data

Dr. Cherisse Du Preez
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Cherisse works with the Marine Spatial and Ecology Analysis Division studying deep seafloor habitats in potential and existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Pacific Ocean. Cherisse will be leading the collection of scientific information from the imagery captured during the deep submersible dives.

Dana Haggarty
Program Head of the Inshore Rockfish and Lingcod, Pacific Biological Station

Dana’s current projects focus on:

  • rockfish barotrauma
  • modeling rockfish habitat
  • lingcod stock assessment
  • the recovery of yelloweye rockfish populations

She is focusing on longline and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) surveys to monitor and assess fish populations and their habitats. She’s working with collaborators, including:

  • industry
  • academics
  • First Nations
  • international partners
  • environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs)

Katie Gale
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Katie’s current work supports marine protected area planning and research, including identifying areas and species of high conservation value. She sits on the marine protected area technical team. This federal-provincial-First Nations partnership is planning a marine protected area network in the Northern Shelf Bioregion off British Columbia’s northern coast.

Candice St. Germain
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

James Pegg
Visual Survey Coordinator, Pacific Biological Station

The partners
Ocean Networks Canada
Oceana Canada
Robert Rangeley, Director of Science
The Haida Nation
The tools
The Vessel
The expedition took place on Ocean Exploration Trust’s state-of-the-art exploration vessel, E/V Nautilus. The 64-meter vessel has the latest technology and tools needed for advanced ocean exploration, including livestreaming capabilities to share the experience of the expedition.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)
ROVs are unmanned vehicles used to collect underwater samples, video, and data. The ROVs Hercules and Argus have been used to survey the seamounts and install ocean monitoring instruments on Dellwood Seamount.
Multibeam Echosounder
The E/V Nautilus is equipped with a multibeam echosounder which uses sonar to chart underwater landscapes. During the expedition, this technology was used to chart Dellwood and Explorer Seamounts for the first time. Learn more about the science of hydrography.
About seamounts and hydrothermal vents

Seamounts are underwater mountains that rise more than 1,000 meters from the seafloor. The steep walls of the seamounts combined with ocean currents create an upward flow of nutrient rich water. This results in diverse ecosystems that provide important habitats for many marine species. Seamounts have been recognized for their:

  • diversity
  • productivity
  • vulnerability
  • regional uniqueness

They’ve been identified as ecologically and biologically significant areas (ESBAs).

seamounts and hydrothermal vents
Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrothermal vents are openings in the planet's surface that emit geothermally heated water. Like hot springs and geysers on land, hydrothermal vents form in areas impacted by:

  • earthquakes
  • the Earth’s vibrations including:
    • volcanically active places
    • areas where tectonic plates are moving apart

They support complex ecosystems of exotic organisms that have adapted to their extreme temperatures and environmental conditions. Each hydrothermal vent is unique in its:

  • size
  • depth
  • species that are present

The hydrothermal vents in Offshore Pacific AOI are identified as EBSAs because of their unique and rare geological features.

Research and Publications
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