British Columbia

Underwater volcanoes revealed through live-streamed B.C. research expedition

A marine research expedition is underway off the B.C. coast to explore little understood dormant underwater volcanos that scientists say provide critical marine habitat.

Seamounts provide critical marine habitat, scientists say

The EV Nautilus has high tech equipment to map the sea bed and take images of the seamounts. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A marine research expedition is underway off the B.C. coast to explore little understood dormant underwater volcanoes that scientists say provide critical marine habitat.

What scientists learn during the 16-day trip in the open ocean off Haida Gwaii could help the government decide if the region should receive designation as a marine protected area.

"It all starts with good science. That's what this contribution is," said Robert Rangeley, science director for Oceana Canada.

"It's been flagged as an area of interest for a marine protected area. There is more work to be done." 

There are dozens of underwater volcanoes — known as seamounts — along the B.C. coast. The expedition will examine three of them.

The slopes on the seamounts provide habitat for corals, sponges and various species of fish and other marine life.

"These are like oases in the sea, areas of high biodiversity," Rangeley said.

A live stream of the expedition will be provided by cameras on remotely operated vehicles that will be used to explore the underwater volcanoes. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Oceana Canada, Oceans Networks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Haida Nation are all partners in the research, which requires deploying remotely operated vehicles hundreds of metres underwater from the EV Nautilus research ship.

The entire expedition is also being live streamed to share rare glimpses of the deep sea formations with the world.

One of the remotely operated vehicles that will be deployed deep underwater from the EV Nautilus. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"I really want everyone to see what is out there," said Tammy Norgard, head of the deep sea ecology program for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

"This is not just a large blank deep water area with nothing. It's full of life. It's full of creatures. It's full of important biodiversity that we need."

The aim is to come up with a long-term monitoring and management plan for the 46 seamounts located on the B.C. coast, she said.

Robert Rangeley is director of science at Oceana Canada, one of the partners on the expedition. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

About the Author

Megan Thomas

Reporter

Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.