Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Research Expedition Looks at Unseen Depths of Labrador Sea Ecosystem

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Research Expedition Looks at Unseen Depths of Labrador Sea Ecosystem

Article excerpt

Expedition explores Labrador Sea's deep ocean

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Last summer, a team of scientists returned from an expedition in the North Atlantic, armed with DNA samples, marine specimens and videos of bottom-feeding fish, sea spiders and corals.

That treasure trove of data offered the first-ever glimpse into a day in the life at the bottom of the Labrador Sea.

In a few weeks, the project's second expedition led by Newfoundland and Labrador researchers will set out to shed more light on the ocean's darkest, unseen depths.

The initiative, funded by the federal Fisheries Department, will assess the unique ecosystem found up to 3,000 metres below the surface.

Fisheries scientist Dave Cote says last summer's expedition was only "scratching the surface" of the deep sea life waiting to be discovered.

When the first images came back up, his team had no idea what they were about to see.

"We were really going in with a blank slate," Cote said in an interview in St. John's.

"We're not used to that so much anymore these days in science, because a lot of the work has already been done. But deep ocean is one of those frontier areas where you can still find that."

Last summer's expedition offered a rare look at the makeup of the deep ocean's ecosystem, including the possible discovery of the first known spawning location for the blue hake fish species.

This August, scientists aboard the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Amundsen will study a wide cross-section of marine life, including coral and sponges, invertebrates, fish and plankton, seabirds and marine mammals.

The bottom may be too deep and dark for the scientists themselves to get up close, but they're using innovative techniques to help bring an early portrait of the ecosystem into focus. That includes methods like hydro acoustics, which use sound recordings to map out the bottom of the sea. …

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