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NCCOS Research Project

Exploring and Characterizing the Seafloor of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Region(s) of Study: Waterbodies / Pacific Ocean
This project began in February 2015 and is Ongoing

We worked with staff at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) on three mapping related efforts: 1) developed a map of existing data to plan for future data collections; 2) organized a workshop of experts to identify and prioritize future mapping needs for CINMS and the Southern California Bight; and 3) provided expert support to a mapping mission using acoustics and a remotely operated vehicle to map unexplored areas and document deep sea corals and other seafloor habitats.

Why We Care

Over 50 percent of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) seafloor has yet to be mapped or characterized at a level suitable for resource management. As a central feature of the Southern California Bight, CINMS is a unique place at the convergence of several water masses in the Pacific Ocean. It is the location of extensive kelp forests and a historically productive fishery for rockfish, anchovy, and mackerel. It is also home to deepwater corals and sponges as well as sharks, whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

What We Are Doing
To facilitate the prioritization of new data collection efforts on the west coast, NCCOS and CINMS created an online GIS story map (available in 2016). This interactive map is used to visualize data; evaluate the extent, type, and quality of existing data sources; and determine where to focus future efforts. Using this inventory of mapped data and a participatory GIS approach, new spatial data were developed to delineate seafloor mapping priorities based on input from workshop participants.
In March 2015, NCCOS and other partners, including Office of Coast Survey and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, worked on board the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada [See image: Shimada Underway] to characterize the seafloor within the Sanctuary around Santa Rose Island. On this mission we mapped 82 square nautical miles of the seafloor at a resolution of 8 meters. The ship’s ME70 multibeam echosounder system, which was largely untested for habitat characterization prior to this effort, was used to collect information on depth, seafloor features and substrate type. Thirteen remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives were also completed.
What We Found/Benefits of our Work
New areas were mapped north and south of Santa Rosa Island to depths of 390m. We found an uncharted pinnacle north of Santa Rosa Island. This information has been submitted to NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to update the nautical chart for that area

During ROV surveys we observed an extensive “coral garden” consisting of large sea fans with many rockfish at 60-80m depth on the north side of Santa Rosa Island.

We now have an inventory of existing spatial data and a mapping tool for collaboration and decision-making regarding future mapping efforts.

Next Steps
We will resume mapping efforts in April 2016 on the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada to map new priority areas as a result of the priority setting workshop. We will also deploy an autonomous vehicle (REMUS – Remote Environmental Monitoring Units) for mapping that operates independent of the ship‘s ME70 mapping effort, making the 2016 expedition more cost effective.

Additional Resources

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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