This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today’s highlight: prehistoric hagfish.
Oregon Leg, Day 4
Today we ran the R/V Miss Linda twenty miles west of Bandon, Oregon to Coquille Bank. This offshore bank, also known as the Bandon High Spot, rises up off the continental shelf break to a relatively shallow 300 feet in depth. Oceana worked to protect this area from bottom trawling in 2005. The regulations went into place in 2006 and now five years after the area was protected, we had the chance to dive there with the ROV.
In 2007, Drs. Mark Hixon and Brian Tissot published a scientific paper on the effects of bottom trawling at Coquille Bank. They found striking differences in the seafloor communities between heavily trawled and untrawled areas including more fish abundance and more diversity in the untrawled areas. They also found that bottom trawling affects marine life living in soft sediments and not just rocky seafloor habitats.
We completed four dives to a maximum depth of 680 feet. The seafloor was dark, a mix of rich muddy sediments, boulders, sand and bedrock. The eerie seafloor was scattered with interesting bottom feeders not seen at our shallower dives. Creatures like hagfish, which look like eels but date back approximately 550 million years and are the only living animals that have a skull but not a vertebral column. The ROV also found a cryptic looking box crab, sole, rosethorn rockfish, prawns, small corals and large vase sponges.
On the surface sixteen albatross followed the Miss Linda, porpoise surfed the waves of her bow, and humpback whales passed behind.
Coquille Bank is certainly a Pacific Ocean hotspot. We were fortunate to get out there. We didn’t originally plan to go that far offshore but given how hard we worked to protect this area, we decided to go for it. As our captain says, “I love it when a plan comes together.”