For sixty years, U.S. fishermen targeting yellowfin tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean with longlines have been capturing and killing severely depleted bluefin tuna. Longlines, which can stretch for 40 miles long and contain hundreds of hooks, are very indiscriminate, catching many other non-target species as well.
This past July, a group of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and many other organizations boarded the ship Okeanos and set out on an exciting 36 day research cruise to explore the deep ocean floors off the U.S. northeast coast. Specifically, they wanted to explore the numerous deep submarine canyons in this area and the Mytilus seamount, which is part of the New England seamount chain. A submarine canyon is basically a steep valley cut into the ocean floor. A seamount, as the name suggests, is an underwater mountain. These habitats can contain vast amounts of sea life, especially compared to other areas of the deep sea.
A group of scientists, led by Kyle Van Houtan with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, asked “what did ocean ecosystems look like in the past?” Specifically the scientists wanted to know what the ocean ecosystem around the Hawaiian Islands was like in the past. And what long-term changes had occurred.