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A characterization of the deep-sea coral and sponge community along the Oregon Coast using a remotely operated vehicle on the EXPRESS 2022 expedition

December 31, 2023

Deep-sea coral and sponge (DSCS) communities serve as essential fish habitat (EFH) by providing shelter and nursery habitat, increasing diversity, and increasing prey availability (Freese and Wing, 2003; Bright, 2007; Baillon et al., 2012; Henderson et al., 2020). Off the U.S. West Coast, threats to these long-lived, fragile organisms from bottom contact fishing gear, potential offshore renewable energy development, and ocean warming and acidification have been the subject of recent research (Gomez et al., 2018; Salgado et al., 2018; Yoklavich, et al., 2018; Gugliotti et al., 2019). Other DSCS studies have reported new species (Yoklavich and Love, 2005), analyzed species distribution and abundance (Tissot et al., 2006, Watters et al., 2022), developed predictive distribution models (Huff et al., 2013; Rooper et al., 2017; Kreidler, 2020), and discovered medicinal uses for corals and sponges (Essack et al., 2011; Shrestha et al., 2018). Due to the vast area of unexplored seafloor within the territorial waters and the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ; 12-200 nautical miles off the coast) and the technological requirements and expense of deep-sea research, there is still much to learn about the distributions and biology of DSCS. This information is critical to resource managers for effective conservation and management of DSCS habitats. In order to minimize the adverse impacts of fishing on EFH, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) designated several seafloor habitat areas as EFH conservation areas (EFHCA), first in 2006 (as part of Amendment 19 to the Pacific coast groundfish fishery management plan) and then again in 2020 (as part of Amendment 28). These areas are closed to bottom trawl fishing at a minimum, and in some cases to all bottom contact fishing gears. In addition to protections afforded by EFH-related regulations, the National Marine Sanctuary Program prohibits certain non-fishing activities within areas designated as national marine sanctuaries, such as oil and gas exploration or extraction, cable laying, and other forms of seabed alteration or construction that disturb benthic communities. NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral and Research Technology Program (DSCRTP) began a 4-yr funding initiative for the U.S. West Coast in 2017. The goals of the West Coast Deep-Sea Coral Initiative (WCDSCI) were to: 1) gather baseline information on areas subject to fishing regulation changes prior to the implementation of Amendment 28; 2) improve our understanding of known DSCS bycatch “hot spots”; and 3) explore and assess DSCS resources within NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries with emphasis on areas of sanctuary resource protection and management concerns. As part of the WCDSCU, an 11-day expedition (3 Sep – 13 Sep 2022) was launched from the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, beginning and ending in Newport, OR. The science team assembled for this cruise were members of the EXpanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS) campaign, which brings together researchers from federal and nonfederal institutions to collaborate on scientific expeditions targeting the deepwater areas off California, Oregon, and Washington. EXPRESS supports researchers leveraging funding, resources, personnel, and expertise to accomplish more science than would have been possible by a single entity alone. The 2022 expedition included research partners from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) and Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Pacific Fisheries Management Council Habitat Committee, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Publication Year 2023
Title A characterization of the deep-sea coral and sponge community along the Oregon Coast using a remotely operated vehicle on the EXPRESS 2022 expedition
DOI 10.25923/tmb0-ce70
Authors Tom Laidig, Diana Watters, Meredith Everett, Nancy G. Prouty, Elizabeth Clarke
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70252082
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center