A team of ocean explorers that went off to study mountains hundreds of metres beneath the ocean’s surface has returned with stunning deep-sea images, including video of some species they’ve never seen before.
DFO marine biologist Cherisse Du Preez was among the scientists on board Ocean Exploration Trust’s ship EV Nautilus earlier this month as it explored the waters off B.C.’s coast.
The team’s mission was to better understand seamounts, mountains that rise from the ocean floor.
WATCH: B.C. ocean expedition goes to new depths to explore sea life
“It is amazing we don’t know more about these seamounts,” Du Preez said. “They are mountain ranges under our ocean and they support an amazing diversity of life.”
“It was nothing short of phenomenal,” Oceana Canada Science Director Dr. Robert Rangeley said of the expedition. “I don’t use the word awe-inspiring very often. I save it for special things, but this was absolutely amazing.”
During the voyage, they explored and mapped 12 of the more than 40 underwater mountains in the Northeast Pacific Seamount range.
“It’s like going to the Rocky Mountains at night for a week with a flashlight,” Du Preez said.
They not only discovered new seamounts, they also collected 150 live specimens, including potentially new species.
“Ninety-five per cent of deep sea animals are new to science,” Du Preez said. “We don’t even know how many new animals we have in our collection.”
Rangeley said the abundance of life was beyond their greatest expectations.
“Nobody has seen these forests of corals quite like this before, certainly not in our waters,” he said.
They hope their findings will help them towards their goal of making the area “Canada’s largest marine protected area,” Du Preez said.
Currently, 90 per cent of the seamounts have only temporary protection.
Rangeley said “Oceana Canada recommends that we call close all bottom-contact fishing permanently on our seamounts” as well as permanent protection from future deep-sea mining.