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Science and Exploration

whaleResearchers Conduct Deep-Sea Coral Mapping, Observe Seafloor Recovery off Olympic Coast

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary staff completed a deep-sea research cruise aboard the Canadian Coast Guard vessel John P. Tully in July 2008, bringing back new information on little-known deepwater coral habitats and seafloor recovery along a telecommunications trench. During the expedition, researchers used the ship's remotely operated vehicle and high-definition camera to document corals at several sites as deep as 1,300 meters. In the northern part of the sanctuary, the team surveyed an area of the seafloor that had been disturbed by a fiber optic telecommunication cable installed in 1999. The project revealed new locations of deep-sea corals and sponges and contributed to marine resource managers' understanding of deepwater habitat recovery following seafloor disturbance. Click here for more information.

Gray's Reef Sanctuary Staff Launch New Fish Tracking Project

Researchers at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary tagged eight reef fish in May 2008, kicking off a new project to track the movement of fish around the sanctuary environment. The tagged fish - six scamp, one gag grouper and one red snapper - were caught during a four-day mission aboard the NOAA ship Nancy Foster, surgically implanted with acoustic tags, and released back into the sea. As the fish move through the water, the signals emitted by the tags are recorded by acoustic receivers positioned throughout the sanctuary. The tagging project is designed to help Gray's Reef sanctuary staff identify the home ranges of reef fish within the sanctuary and track how the fish use the habitat. Ultimately, information from the project will assist with management decisions as the sanctuary gains a greater understanding of fish behavior and distribution. Plans are being developed to partner with NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to continue tagging efforts in FY 2009. Click here for more information.

whaleSanctuary Tests Innovative Techniques for Removing Deepwater Marine Debris

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary staff successfully tested innovative methods of removing derelict fishing gear from the deep waters of Cordell Bank using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in August 2008. The team experimented with removing lost longlines and gillnets that had become entangled on the rocky reef, using the ROV's manipulator arm to cut loose and retrieve several large sections of fishing gear over the course of the six-day mission. The results of their tests will be incorporated into marine debris removal protocols that can be used for habitat restoration in other sensitive deepwater areas like Cordell Bank. In addition, sanctuary staff collected marine life attached to the derelict gear for aquaria and museum exhibits to share the underwater ecosystem of Cordell Bank with a wide audience and increase our understanding of this ocean treasure. Click here for more information.

Acoustic Buoys Help Protect Endangered Right Whales

An innovative monitoring system is now providing enhanced protection from vessel traffic for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Ten automatic acoustic detection buoys along the main shipping lanes into Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor "listen" for right whales, with five of the buoys located in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. When a right whale's call is detected by one of the buoys, the information is relayed in real time to NOAA's Right Whale Sighting Advisory System, which alerts vessels in the area and may reduce the potential for harmful whale-vessel collisions. The acoustic detection system, which was installed in January 2008, was developed by Cornell University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a license requirement for two liquid natural gas ports near the western edge of the sanctuary. Tankers accessing these new ports are required to slow down and post observers in areas where right whales have been detected. It is estimated that fewer than 400 right whales remain in the North Atlantic, and protecting the majestic animals in and around Stellwagen Bank is a high priority for the sanctuary. Click here for more information.

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