Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flemish Cap

The CCGS Hudson is now steaming towards its first location on the Flemish Cap (right). This area is just outside of Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone (200 mile limit) and has been fished for many years by the international fishing fleet. The Regional Fisheries Management Organization responsible for managing the fisheries in this area is the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). Many of the dives will investigate coral and sponge concentrations within the bounds of recent closure areas designated in Bergen, Norway in 2009 (right - shown as shaded areas over the multibeam).

Our first dive on Flemish Cap will take place in an area recently surveyed by multibeam sonar in 2009 by the Miguel Oliver, a Spanish vessel taking part in an international research program led by Spain called NEREIDA.

The dive will start at ~1800 m traversing up the thalweg of the canyon and then up the canyon wall before proceeding along a ridge before ending on the southern banks of Flemish Cap in less than 500 m of water. The dive will take no longer than 15 hrs to complete (left).

During this dive ROPOS will collect sediment cores, rock samples, coral for reproductive studies and biological samples for taxonomic purposes. HD video and digital still images collected during the dive will later be thoroughly analyzed for both geology and biology. Each biological/ geological record observed is related to a geographic position and can later be plotted using geographic information system (GIS) software. This information can give researchers valuable insight into species assemblages and their habitat preferences typical for the area.

Every specimen collected during this and all following dives will be meticulously identified and catalogued by experienced taxonomists. This serves a dual purpose by providing ID sheets for technicians analyzing video and by identifying species that may deserve further study. It is quite possible over the next few weeks, that species new to science may be discovered! At the very least, it is quite likely that taxa will be discovered that were previously undescribed for this area, thus extending their range.

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