A giant Pacific octopus rests its eye among anenomes and sponges nestled along Pribilof Canyon

Photo: Todd Warshaw/Greenpeace

Under the sea

A giant Pacific octopus rests its eyes among anenomes and sponges nestled along Pribilof Canyon, located 1,132 feet below the surface of the Bering Sea, during a Greenpeace-sponsored expedition.

 

Equipped with a manned submersible and a fleet of deep-sea robots, the mission was organized to study the Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons of the Bering Sea amid concerns over the environmental effects of large-scale trawling and other fishing operations in the region.

 

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Photo: Todd Warshaw/Greenpeace

Cold water coral

In this image taken during the expedition, a piece of bright red swiftia coral found in the Bering Sea's Zhemchug Canyon is collected for research.

 

Much of the expedition was focused on studying the abundance and diversity of deep-sea coral within the canyons. The expedition revealed "significant densities of coral, higher than most places in the world," said Robert J. Miller, a biologist conducting research for the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara.

 

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Photo: Todd Warshaw/Greenpeace

Golden king crab

A golden king crab rests its spiny limbs on a piece of sponge after being collected during an expedition to the Zhemchug Canyon in the Bering Sea.

 

The expedition also cast light on the damages that bottom-trawling practices cause on the coral living on the sea floor — which looked like it had been bulldozed in some places. Cold water coral grows very slowly, so "even if you're only disturbing a small percentage of the population every year," Miller said, "if you do that for 100 years, then nothing is going to be recovered."

 

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The tail of a humpback whale descends into the waters of the Gulf of Alaska.

Photo: Todd Warshaw/Greenpeace

A whale of an expedition

The tail of a humpback whale descends into the waters of the Gulf of Alaska, which neighbors east of the Bering Sea.

 

The pair of canyons that were studied during the expedition — the Zhemchug Canyon and the Pribilof Canyon — are believed to have been carved out by river sediment during the last ice age, when sea levels were much lower. You can read more about this expedition on Our Amazing Planet.

 

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