Olympic Coast NMS Dive Sites

Olympic Coast NMS


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Backscatter map of the area around the sponge site. (provided by C. Goldfinger, Oregon State University)

Grays Canyon Backscatter Map

Provided by C. Goldfinger, Oregon State University

Grays Canyon

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Surveys off Washington's Coast

A Characterization of the Deep-sea Coral and Sponge Community

Access Surveys

Area Map The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) is located off of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and encompasses over 8,000 square miles of the continental shelf. In the deeper waters of the Sanctuary, scattered communities of deep-sea corals (DSC) and sponges have been found. A number of surveys of deep-sea coral and sponge habitats have occurred over the last several years; however, many areas within the Sanctuary have not been explored using photographic methods. As part of measures to minimize impacts to essential fish habitat (EFH) for Pacific coast groundfish, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) created a conservation area known as Olympic 2 in 2006. This designation was partially based on historical deep-sea coral information and the recognition that these particularly vulnerable communities may provide important habitat for fishes. DSCRPT-funded survey reports are available for 2010 as well as unfunded survey reports for 2006 & 2008.

Grays Canyon, offshore of Grays Harbor, Washington, was surveyed between 20 September - 23 September 2010 by Oregon State University’s Vessel Pacific Storm deploying the SeaBed type Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Lucille. This site is near the shelf break in an area of low relief in waters between 200 and 140 m deep.

These survey reports (see 'Access Surveys' button) present summaries, by dive, of the diversity and density of corals, sponges, invertebrates and fishes along with their associated habitats. They also present profiles of sea temperature and salinity with depth. Some notes on the health and condition of the corals and sponges are included, along with the occurrence of marine debris and evidence of fishing.

NOAA Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program

DSCRTP Funded

OCNMS 2010

06/13-15 | Depth 117 - 129 meters AUV Summary [Download size: 63 Mb]


06/15-16 | Depth 100 - 137 meters ROV Summary [Download size: 1.6 Mb]




Non-DSCRTP Funded

OCNMS 2006

5/26 - 6/3 | Depth 44 - 372 meters ROV Summary [Download size: 4.3 Mb]


OCNMS 2008

7/10-14 | Depth 105 - 359 meters ROV Summary [Download size: 4.0 Mb]

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Surveys off Washington's Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

A Characterization of the Deep-sea Coral and Sponge Community

Overview Access Reports

OCNMS Dive Area Map In order to meet the needs for additional information on deep-sea corals (DSC), surveys of DSC ecosystems in the OCNMS were conducted utilizing a ROV and an AUV off the NOAA Ship McArthur II in June 2010. Both survey vehicles targeted known or suspected DSC sites both inside the current EFH conservation area known as 'Olympic 2'. Sampling also targeted adjacent areas that have been proposed as boundary expansions and/or have additional fishery restrictions. Thus, new information on the locations, densities, and condition of DSCs and their role as EFH will not only help to fill scientific data gaps, but will provide new information pertinent to pending management considerations (via provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and/or National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA).

The study site was in the region of the OCNMS in waters greater than 100m. The habitat in this region is generally sand and silt, grading into gravel and cobbles. Rocky habitat is patchy and occurs as scattered outcrops or as canyon walls. It is on hard or rocky bottom that stands of structure forming corals are most likely to occur. Existing bathymetric information was used to select potential hard bottom sites that had not been surveyed and were within or around the Olympic 2 conservation area

Approximately 11,412 m² of seafloor habitat was classified. On Dive 001, several habitat types were encountered but the predominant primary habitat was sand. Gravel was the next most abundant habitat followed by pebble, cobble, boulder and sediment. Dive 2 also crossed different geological areas but most of the habitats observed were composed entirely of sand with no other secondary habitat. Over the course of Dive 002 a number of boulder fields were encountered scattered throughout the area.

NOAA Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program

Survey offshore of Grays Harbor, Washington Near Grays Canyon

A Characterization of the Deep-sea Coral and Sponge Community

Overview 2010 Report (E. Clarke et al.) [Download size: 81.5 Mb]

Area map Images of the seafloor were collected using two 5 Megapixel,12 bit dynamic range Prosilica GigE cameras. One camera was mounted to look directly downward and the second camera was angled forward at 30°. Lighting was provided by a strobe synced with the cameras. Two downward parallel lasers were used to estimate the sizes of organisms in photographs.

The AUV was equipped with two navigational sensors: the RDI 1200 kHz Doppler Velocity Log and the iXSea OCTANS Inertial Navigation. The AUV was tracked using a Link Quest TrackLink 1510 MAH USBL navigation system. Subsurface communication was provided by the WHOI 256008 acoustic micromodem and surface communication used a FreeWave FGR-115 RCRF radio modem. Depth was determined using a Paroscientific Depth Sensor. Salinity, temperature and pressure were collected using a Seabird model 49 FastCat CTD mounted on the AUV. An Imagenex Delta-T profiling sonar was used on dive 005.

Approximately 17,170 m² of sea floor habitat was classified. A two character code was used to identify the habitat type and the two codes then were aggregated into three habitat categories: sediment/mud, mixed (which included various proportions of rock, boulder, cobble, flat rock and mud), and hard rock (that was primarily a combination of boulder and/or flat rock). Sixty-eight percent of the area surveyed was sediment/mud, 25% mixed and the remainder was hard.

A total of 3,112 fishes were enumerated for an overall density of 182 per 1,000 m². Many of the sponges had fishes associated with them. Fish were categorized as being associated with sponges when they were within one body length of the structure forming sponges. Twenty-eight percent of the fishes overall were associated with sponges. These fish were predominantly rockfishes.

NOAA Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program