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A Survey of Deep-water Coral and Sponge Habitats Along the West Coast of the US Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle

Stierhoff, K.L., P.J. Etnoyer, D.W. Murfin, and J.L. Butler (October 2011)

NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 138


Survey Objectives: Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) surveys were conducted from NOAA's state-of-the-art Fisheries Survey Vessel (FSV) Bell M. Shimada during a six-day transit November 1- 5, 2010 between San Diego, CA and Seattle, WA. The objective of this survey was to locate and characterize deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems at several recommended sites in support of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. Deep-sea corals and sponges were photographed and collected whenever possible using the Southwest Fisheries Science Center's (SWFSC) Phantom ROV 'Sebastes' (Fig. 1). The surveyed sites were recommended by National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) scientists at Monterey Bay NMS, Gulf of the Farallones NMS, and Olympic Coast NMS (Fig. 2). The specific sites were: Sur Canyon, The Football, Coquille Bank, and Olympic Coast NMS. During each dive, the ROV collected digital still images, video, navigation, and alongtrack conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD), and optode data. Video and high-resolution photographs were used to quantify abundance of corals, sponges, and associated fishes and invertebrates to the lowest practicable taxonomic level, and also to classify the seabed by substrate type. A reference laser system was used to quantify area searched and estimate the density of benthic fauna.

Survey Summary: Five ROV transect surveys were conducted between San Diego, CA and Seattle, WA. The total submerged time of 9 hours 45 minutes. The total seafloor distance surveyed was ~5.1 kilometers (km). The depth range of observations was from 110-400 meters (m) (Table 1). Many deep-sea octocorals, cup corals, and sponges were observed throughout the survey. The ROV's single function manipulator was used to collect four deep-sea coral specimens for molecular and morphological taxonomy plus three serendipitous samples of invertebrates associated with those corals. Samples consisted of: (1) Dendrophyllia sp., (2) brittle stars, (2) Euplexaura markii, (~20) amphipods associated with E. markii, and (1) Swiftia pacifica (see Appendix 1).

Suggested Citation:

Stierhoff, KL, PJ Etnoyer, DW Murfin, and JL Butler. 2011. A survey of deep-water coral and sponge habitats along the West Coast of the US using a remotely operated vehicle. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 138. NOAA Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, SC. 38 pp.

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