Pacific seamounts expedition 2019

Pacific seamounts expedition 2019

Map: Pacific seamounts expedition 2019

Map: Pacific seamounts expedition 2019

The expedition

On July 16, 2019, a science team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations, and other partner organizations will embark on a two-week expedition to uncover the mysteries of Canada’s largest underwater volcano, known as Explorer seamount, at the center of a potential Offshore Pacific Marine Protected Area.

This mission will expand the knowledge of the 2018 Expedition where many species unknown to science were discovered that were once unknown to science. The discoveries of these expeditions will provide information to those involved in the conservation and management of these unique ecosystems found in Canadian waters.

Be sure to join the daily livestream and ask your questions to our scientists! You too can uncover the mysteries of the deep!

Objectives of the expedition

The objectives of this expedition include surveying and documenting:

  • what resident animals live on these underwater island oases, as well as what transient oceanic animals temporarily use it (e.g., whales and seabirds);
  • where do these animals live and at what depths;
  • locations of special interest (e.g., areas of high biological diversity, cold-water coral and sponge gardens, rare species habitats);
  • the spatial extent of Spongetopia, on Explorer Seamount;
  • the chemical and biological variability of the water bathing the seamounts (e.g., the base vs. summit, inshore- vs. offshore-facing flanks);
  • the characteristics of the volcanic sediments, lava-types, and geological formations;
  • any observable human impacts (e.g., derelict gear, such as lines, traps, and anchors); and
  • the location, shape, and depth of the many newly discovered but unexplored seamounts in the region.
About seamounts

What is a Seamount?

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 biodiversity hotspots. They create an upward flow of nutrient rich water, resulting in diverse ecosystems that provide important habitats for many marine species. Seamounts have been recognized for their:

  • regional uniqueness
  • vulnerability
  • productivity
  • diversity

Explorer Seamount

Explorer Seamount is an ocean giant. At over two thousand kilometers-squared, it is the size of Greater Vancouver. Remarkably, it is the single largest offshore shallow-water refuge in Canadian waters (more than twice the size of the next largest seamount). With the same height as active terrestrial volcano Mount Baker, its lava-encrusted flanks rise 2.5 km above the surrounding seafloor to a cluster of ridges and peaks.

Explorer Seamount is like no other that we have visited to far. It is home to a strange reef-like habitat, informally called Spongetopia, a bizarrely large monoculture of sponges extending far beyond the distance the scientists could travel during the 2018 dive. To add to the mystery, the geological, chemical, and ecological characteristics of the seamount are all varied from what scientists have come to expect on seamounts in the region.

Observing Spongetopia, a forest of corals and sponges on Explorer Seamount using a Remotely Operated Vehicle. Copyright Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners.

Observing Spongetopia, a forest of corals and sponges on Explorer Seamount using a Remotely Operated Vehicle. © Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners.

The team

Tammy Norgard
Expedition Lead Scientist, Deep Sea Ecology Program Head
Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Dr. Cherisse Dupreez
Marine Biologist
Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Katie Gale
Marine Biologist
Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Tamara Fraser
Oceanographic Technician
Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Chelsea Stanley
Fisheries Acoustics Research Technician
Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Benjamin Snow
Biologist and BOOTS navigator
Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cole Fields
Spatial Analyst
Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

James Pegg
Senior Ocean Glider Technician
Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Canadian-Pacific Robotic Ocean Observing Facility

Travis Poehlke
Oceans Program Analyst
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Aline Carrier
Capacity Building Coordinator
Nuu-chah-nulth Nations

Joshua Watts
Biology/Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science Student, University of Victoria
Nuu-chah-nulth Nations

Kim Wallace
BOOTS technician
Highland Technologies

Paul Macoun
BOOTS technician
Highland Technologies

Graham Gillespie
Marine Biologist/Fisheries and Oceans Canada Alumnus

Shelton Dupreez
Photographer Filmmaker
Luxury Yacht Film

Caroline Mc Nicoll
Communications/Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The partners
  • Nuu-chah-nulth Nations
    The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) provides programs and services to over 10,000 registered members and represents 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: Ahousaht, Ditidaht, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint, Hesquiaht, Hupacasath, Huu-ay-aht, Kyuquot/Cheklesaht, Mowachaht /Muchalaht, Nuchatlaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, Tseshaht, Uchucklesaht and Ucluelet. Uu-a-thluk, which means ‘taking care of’ in Nuu-chah-nulth language, is the name of the NTC fisheries department. The NTC and Uu-a-thluk are excited to be part of Pacific Seamounts Expedition 2019 as Nuu-chah-nulth peoples have been connected to the water since time immemorial and continue to maintain the utmost ‘iisaak’ (respect with caring) for the ocean. The Nuu-chah-nulth contribution of traditional ecological knowledge will be valuable as our representatives participate in modern scientific data collection during the expedition.
  • Ocean Networks Canada
The tools

Submersible Drop Camera

The Bathyal Ocean Observation and Televideo System, also known as “BOOTS,” is a submersible drop camera platform containing high-resolution cameras, flood lights and sensors. Attached to and controlled from aboard the ship, it can dive up to 2000 meters while delivering real-time imagery and oceans data on temperature, oxygen levels and depth.

BOOTS was designed and built in part at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station.

BOOTS. Copyright Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

BOOTS. Photo: Shelton Dupreez

The area

The Offshore Pacific Area of Interest

In May 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced a new large offshore Area of Interest (AOI) off the coast of British Columbia, beginning 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 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.

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