Deep Reefs of Papahānaumokuākea

This September, scientists surveyed the deep reefs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. What they found was amazing: a high abundance of species found only in the Hawaiian Islands and specimens and photographs of potential new species of fish, algae, and invertebrates! #‎EarthIsBlue‬


The NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai embarked on a research expedition in September within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, exploring the deep coral reefs located there. During the trip, scientists recorded numerous species of marine life never before seen, including a possible new species of seahorse and a sea star not previously found in Hawaii.

Using advanced dive technology to survey reefs at depths up to 300 feet, scientists were able to observe rarely seen ecosystems. Fish surveys at these depths revealed an extremely high abundance of species found only in the Hawaiian Islands. On some of the deep reefs surveyed, 100 percent of the fish recorded were endemic, meaning that they are all unique to the Hawaiian archipelago.

This is the highest level of endemism recorded from any marine ecosystem on Earth. The team was the first to dive on several open-ocean seamounts in the monument, which were first mapped using high-resolution multi-beam sonar in 2014 and 2015.

Scientists collected specimens and photographs of new records of marine life from the seamounts, including potential new species of fish, algae and invertebrates. The specimens will be sent to experts at various museums around the world to confirm the identity of the organisms.

Discoveries of rare and unique species of marine life remind us why Papahānaumokuākea is so special and why we need to continue exploring, managing and protecting it.