Scientists explore new depths at Papahanaumokuakea

By Cam Tran
Published On: Jun 18 2013 12:51:00 PM HST

Greg McFall/NOAA

  1. NOAA rebreather diver Daniel Wagner at Laysan in Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument.
Papah?naumoku?kea -

Finding new species in remote locations. A team of Hawaii scientists spent a month exploring the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Diving deep into the Northwestern Hawaiian Island waters, Hawaii divers encounter a serene, pristine underwater universe.

"these regions are completely unexplored," said Randy Kosaki, Papahanaumokuakea Deputy Superintendent. "We don't have good maps of these areas. We have better maps of the moon than the ocean floor even on Hawai'i."

With new closed circuit re-breather diving gear, a team of scientists were able to explore a new depth of sea-life and coral in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

"Most of the research on coral reefs have been done at comfortable scuba depths like 20 - 80 feet," said Kosaki. "Yet coral reef habitats go down past 300 feet. All of the coral reef research that's been done today has been done in the shallower third of the habitat."

During their month long expedition, divers discovered giant moray peeking out of the rocks, a rare Rainbow Angelfish swimming in deep waters and large school of ulua dominating the ocean.

Scientists recorded 40 different types of fish never seen before in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Atoll.

"it's biodiversity that we haven't documented. A lot of these coral reef systems, especially deeper ones, are under threat due to climate change and sea water saltification." Kosaki added. "So essentially we stand to lose some of this biodiversity before even knowing that it exists."

And researchers believe some of the fish and algae could be a completely new species all together. However researchers need six months to thoroughly verify any finds.
And the exciting part, they say this is just the beginning.

"There are many, many years of work ahead of us to fully characterize the deep reefs."

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