NOAA expedition off Kona unearths mysterious deep sea creatures
Nearly three quarters of the Earth is taken up by the ocean but NOAA scientists say less than five percent of its have ever been explored. NOAA fisheries is on a mission to expand our understanding.
HONOLULU - Nearly three quarters of the Earth is taken up by the ocean but NOAA scientists say less than five percent of its have ever been explored.
NOAA fisheries is on a mission to expand our understanding. Researchers just wrapped up an expedition off the Kona Coast. 20 scientists spent 20 days in waters off West Hawai'i known for it's thriving ocean environment.
"We're trying to really pinpoint some of the primary mechanism's...primary reasons why this ecosystem is so productive," said Jamison Gove, a NOAA Oceanographer.
Scientists discovered an abundant community of creatures 2,000 feet down that possessed out of the ordinary features.
"Huge teeth... they're all very strange looking. They have adapted to life where there's virtually no light, food is incredibly scarce and if you come across a meal you have to be able to grab it," said Jonathan Whitney, a NOAA Biologist.
The mysterious species are believed to be an important food source to larger marine mammals like dolphins.
Large trawl nets scooped up organisms from the deep depths and near the surface in an area known as the surface slicks. The visibly smooth ribbon like section pulls together floating material and serves as somewhat of a nursery for young marine life.
But samples revealed it also houses an alarming amount of trash.
"Micro plastics for example, could be ingested by these juvenile fish mistaking them for food. We don't really know that, but the fact that we have all this material in one small area just increases the likelihood," said Gove.
Researchers are now analyzing all of the samples in the lab. It could take anywhere from a matter of weeks to a few years to evaluate. NOAA said the results could help with better management of the ocean and policy change.
"So far were just scratching the surface of what's there and projects like this will be integral towards really understanding how the marine environment works and how Hawaii could be impacted by changes in population and climate," said Whitney.
Another Kona coast expedition has already been set up for April 2017.