Magazine article Oceanus

A New Eye on Deep-Sea Fisheries

Magazine article Oceanus

A New Eye on Deep-Sea Fisheries

Article excerpt

Imagine that officials charged with setting deer-hunting limits had to assess the herd's abundance by flying over forests at night. That's a little like what the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) is up against to set fishing quotas for deepsea scallops.

To get new views into the deep, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists built HabCam, a stereo-optic camera and lighting system mounted on a metal frame. It is towed by a ship 6 to 8 feet above the seafloor, snapping six images per second. Covering 100 nautical miles per day, it creates vivid ribbonlike photomosaics showing where, what, and how much life lies on the seafloor.

Unlike dredge sampling, HabCam doesn't disturb seafloor ecosystems. The 3-D images provide millimeter-scale resolution of seafloor contours, said WHOI biologist Scott Gallager. "In addition to information on scallops, HabCam also provides a huge amount of data on seafloor habitat. We are seeing that the more complex or three-dimensional the seafloor habitat is, the higher the diversity of organisms and communities it can support."

HabCam is also equipped with sensors that measure temperature, salinity, chlorophyll levels, and other ocean conditions. …

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