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Divers Explore Cordell Bank after 30 Year Hiatus

After 30 years, a research diving expedition on Cordell Bank took place October 5-12th.  Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary staff, ONMS technical divers, University of California-Davis Bodega Marine Lab, California Academy of Sciences, Cordell Expeditions, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) collaborated to put SCUBA divers on Cordell Bank for the first time since original explorations took place in 1978. Divers collected samples to be archived and identified by the California Academy of Sciences, photos/videos documented and characterized the habitat (and will be compared to photos/video from 30 years ago). The expedition was documented and details can be seen here:http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/missions/2010reefcrest/welcome.html

Incredible images, including thousands of schooling young-of-the-year rockfishes, can be viewed at the CBNMS Facebook Page: http://tiny.cc/l2okb

This mission tested the feasibility of using technical divers for accomplishing hands-on tasks at depths of 115-200 feet over Cordell Bank and compared the invertebrate and fish communities to historical conditions.  This information will help inform sanctuary management on priority conservation science needs for future protection.

Initial exploration of the upper pinnacles of Cordell Bank by SCUBA divers was lead by Dr. Robert Schmieder and the non-profit organization Cordell Expeditions. For the first time since the designation of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) in 1989, technical scientific SCUBA divers revisited the shallowest parts of Cordell Bank’s reef crest (115-200ft), deploying off of the NOAA research vessel Fulmar.

Cordell Bank, the main feature of CBNMS, is located on the continental shelf, about 50 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge and 20 miles west of the Point Reyes lighthouse. The bank is 4.5 miles wide by 9.5 miles long and emerges from the soft sediments of the continental shelf, with the upper pinnacles reaching to within 115 feet of the ocean’s surface. The upper reef crests of Cordell Bank are carpeted in lush invertebrate cover, including hydrocorals, stony corals, sponges, anemones, hydroids, macroalgae and tunicates, providing critical habitat to a variety of first-year juvenile and adult rockfish species. Cordell Bank is truly a biologically diverse and unique place.

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