21 July 2010

Scientists find new sea creatures near deep water oil exploration sites

Scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, three Canadian universities and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography have discovered marine life previously unknown to science in international waters offshore Newfoundland.

The team has turned up two species of coral and six types of sponge living thousands of feet below the ocean surface.

The researchers are investigating 11 specific areas offshore that collectively cover  a portion of seabed  one and a half times the size of Prince Edward Island. The areas examined include Sable Gully, the Flemish Cap and the Orphan Knoll.

The Flemish Cap is a relatively shallow area and a well-known fishing ground. The Orphan Knoll is in much deeper water about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s.

Almost a dozen areas around the Flemish Cap and the Orphan Knoll received protections by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization after the United Nations passed a resolution on vulnerable marine ecosystems. Research from this trip will be used to determine if those protected areas need to be refined or expanded when they are reviewed next year, and could determine future fishing policy.

The Flemish Cap, marked in the picture below with a red “X”, and the Orphan Knoll, outlined with a red dashed line, are also prominent features adjacent to areas currently open to oil exploration.


The team is using remotely piloted vehicles as part of a 20 day expedition.  Some of the dives have been to depths of 3,000 metres.

Information collected during the expedition may help to understand temperature and chemical changes in the ocean over the course of the last 1,000 years.  Some of the corals found may live that long.

- srbp -

Related:Agency withholds key elements in plans for spillsPostmedia News, July 21, 2010