Research video captures rare seafloor habitat off Ore. coast

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by Keely Chalmers, KGW reporter

NWCN.com

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 9:10 AM

TILLAMOOK, Ore. -- An environmental group took a camera where no other has been before and captured, for the very first time, rare habitat miles off the Oregon coast and hundreds of feet below the ocean surface.

It was a finding that even surprised the researchers.

The expedition was conducted by the conservation group Oceana. Their seven-day mission wrapped up last week. The group’s goal was to document previously unexplored seafloor areas to find out once and for all if there is living habitat down there.

Scientists used a remote-operated vehicle to capture the images.

More: Ocean blog about the Oregon expedition

Those images included barrel sponges with rock fish living and hiding inside them as well as giant glass sponges that can be up to 200 years old.

“There's been this long standing debate in the scientific community and among fishery managers about whether or not these sponges and corals we are seeing are really habitat or do they just happen to be there.  This video shows definitively that these are habitat,” explained Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist with Oceana.

The group hopes the video will help make the case for closing 1,300 square miles of ocean habitat off the Oregon Coast to bottom trawl fishing.

The Oregon Trawl Commission acknowledges the video does show living habitat but said it has already taken steps to minimize impact to marine environment.  The commission said it would oppose any restrictions.

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