Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune
Author: ALEXANDRA COUSTEAU & TED DANSON
The Pacific Ocean off California is unlike any other place in the world. Its fluorescent sunsets and powerful waves have been the inspiration for pop culture, art, education and conservation. Visitors and locals alike flock to California’s 840 miles of breathtaking coastline. However, just beyond the limits of the naked eye lies an important part of the ocean that many people don’t know about, the seafloor. Remarkably, we know more about the moon orbiting the Earth about 230,000 miles away than we do about the seafloor.
While ocean exploration has come a long way in the last several decades, less than 0.5 percent of the world’s ocean has been explored, photographed or filmed. This summer a team of researchers and explorers with Oceana, MARE (Marine Applied Research & Exploration) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration embarked on a scientific expedition to document deep sea life in the Southern California Bight offshore of Los Angeles. The resulting footage and data unveiled a remarkable underwater world unlike any other.
Imagine a colorful underwater forest of gold, purple and pink coral colonies comprised of thousands of individual animals. These structures, like sponges, rocky reefs and underwater canyons, are habitat for dozens of fish species — many are sought after in commercial and sport fisheries — and are frequented by octopus, sea stars and crabs. The expedition’s images show shark egg cases hanging on coral branches like decorations, rockfish nestling into cylindrical sponges, eels peering out of rocky reefs and basket stars precariously balancing on sponges shaped like vases. These diverse seafloor structures provide shelter, feeding grounds and breeding areas for countless species of marine life.
Without healthy productive seafloor habitats, the oceans wouldn’t be the same. In order to balance a vibrant fishing economy and ocean biodiversity, we must protect the oceans from the seafloor up.