Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

Map: Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

Map: Northeast Pacific Seamounts Expedition

The mission

From July 5-21, 2018, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Haida Nation, Oceana Canada, and Ocean Networks Canada will embark on an expedition to explore seamounts near the islands of Haida Gwaii in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia.

The expedition team will spend 16 days on board Ocean Exploration Trust’s state-of-the-art vessel, Nautilus, equipped with two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Hercules and Argus, and a multi-beam echosounder used for seafloor mapping.

All known seamounts located in Canadian waters are found off the coast of British Columbia, near the islands of Haida Gwaii. This expedition will survey three of them: SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie, Dellwood and Explorer.

The expedition objectives

Identified as Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas, seamounts are important to the resilience of marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystem functions. This expedition will be looking at three seamounts in particular: SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount and Dellwood and Explorer Seamounts in the Offshore Pacific AOI. The data collected during this mission will provide insight into the diverse ecosystems of seamounts, for which data is limited, and will help inform the planning and management of these, and other seamounts in the area.

Specific objectives:

  • Establish long-term monitoring sites on the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount.
  • Survey and document physical features, ecosystems, species distribution and observable human impact on the seamounts.
  • Install a monitoring system on Dellwood Seamount in the cold-water coral and sponge gardens to gather environmental data.
  • Survey the potential hydrothermal vents on Dellwood Seamount.
  • Create the first ever charts of Explorer and Dellwood Seamounts using multibeam technology.
The area
Offshore Pacific AOI
Offshore Pacific AOI

In May 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced a new large offshore Area of Interest off the coast of British Columbia, beginning the extensive process of establishing the area as an MPA under Canada’s Oceans Act. This area was designated as an AOI based on its unique seafloor features and ecosystems, which include several seamounts and a series of hydrothermal vents. The area includes 18 named seamounts, including Dellwood and Explorer, and perhaps as many as 40 in total.

The AOI has interim protection through the Offshore Pacific Seamount and Vents Closure marine refuge, which was established in October 2017. The marine refuge aims to protect the area’s unique ecosystem and prohibits all bottom-contact commercial and recreational fishing activities.

SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA
SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA

Recognized by the Haida Nation as a special and protected place, SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA is located west of Haida Gwaii and was designated in 2008 to conserve and protect the area’s biodiversity and biological productivity. The MPA encompasses three offshore seamounts: Hodgkins, Davidson, and Bowie, which is the largest and the focus for this expedition. To the Haida Nation, the Indigenous people who played a key role in establishing the MPA, Bowie Seamount is called SGaan Kinghlas, meaning "Supernatural Being Looking Outward". Scientists believe that SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie seamount was an active volcanic island during the last ice age.

The Species
The Species

Seamounts are biological hotspots and home to a variety of diverse species including cold-water corals and sponges, and rockfish. Several species under the federal Species at Risk Act have also been recorded at the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA, including the Ancient murrelet, Steller sea lion, orca whales, and Boccacio rockfish. The expedition’s research will help to properly protect and conserve these species.

The team
DFO Team

Tammy Norgard
Expedition Lead Scientist, Deep Sea Ecology Program Head, Pacific Biological Station

Dr. Cherisse Du Preez
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Dana Haggarty
Program Head of the Inshore Rockfish and Lingcod, Pacific Biological Station

Katie Gale
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Candice St. Germain
Marine Biologist, Institute of Ocean Sciences

James Pegg
Visual Survey Coordinator, Pacific Biological Station

The partners
Ocean Networks Canada
Oceana Canada
The Haida Nation
The tools
The Vessel
The expedition will take place on Ocean Exploration Trust’s state-of-the-art exploration vessel, E/V Nautilus. The 64-meter vessel has the latest technology and tools needed for advanced ocean exploration, including livestreaming capabilities to share the experience of the expedition.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)
ROVs are unmanned vehicles used to collect underwater samples, video, and data. The ROVs Hercules and Argus will be used to survey the seamounts and install ocean monitoring instruments on Dellwood Seamount.
Multibeam Echosounder
The E/V Nautilus is equipped with a multibeam echosounder which uses sonar to chart underwater landscapes. During the expedition, this technology will be used to chart Dellwood and Explorer Seamounts for the first time. Learn more about the science of hydrography!
About seamounts and hydrothermal vents

Seamounts are underwater mountains that rise more than 1,000 meters from the seafloor. The steep walls of the seamounts combined with ocean currents create an upward flow of nutrient rich water, resulting in diverse ecosystems that provide important habitats for many marine species. Seamounts have been recognized for their regional uniqueness, vulnerability, productivity and diversity and have been identified as Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (ESBAs).

seamounts and hydrothermal vents
Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrothermal vents are openings in the planet's surface that emit geothermally heated water. Like hot springs and geysers on land, hydrothermal vents form in areas impacted by earthquakes or the Earth’s vibrations including volcanically active places and areas where tectonic plates are moving apart. They support complex ecosystems of exotic organisms that have adapted to their extreme temperatures and environmental conditions. Each hydrothermal vent is unique in its size, depth, and species that are present. The hydrothermal vents in Offshore Pacific AOI are identified as EBSAs because of their unique and rare geological features.

Mission videos

Photo gallery

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