November 7, 2011
Scientists Set Out On New 45-Day Deep-Sea Expedition
Scientists set out on an expedition to explore the depths of the Indian Ocean on Monday from Cape Town.
The researchers will embark on a 45-day research cruise exploring areas where the deepest sea creatures lie.
Aurelie Spadone, a sea specialist with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who is among the scientists, said "it would be very surprising if we don't come back with a new species."
The mission is the second to visit the seamounts along the South-West Indian Ocean Ridge. In 2009, scientists from the first mission announced they found a new species of squid in the Indian Ocean.
Seamounts are underwater mountains that rise to at least 3,280 feet above the sea floor.
"Because of their interactions with underwater currents, the biodiversity that develops around them is remarkably rich," Spadone said in a statement.
"They attract a great diversity of species and act as a type of 'bed and breakfast' for deep-sea predators such as sharks, which often feed on seamount communities," she added.
Researchers said in a report in the journal Marine Policy this year that deep sea trawling is one of the most damaging forms of fishing.
They said that industrial fishing at depth has a huge impact on seafloor ecosystems.
Industrial fishing in deep ocean waters generally relies on trawling the ocean's bottom with huge weighted nets.
"Deep-sea bottom fisheries, including bottom trawling, can damage seamount habitats and negatively impact fish stocks," Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Program, said in a statement. "It can also irreversibly damage cold water corals, sponges and other animals."
Spadone said researchers on this trip will focus on learning more about how deep sea fishing is affecting marine life.
On the Net: