New pictures of marine life in the Pacific

October 28, 2008 7:09:10 PM PDT
Scientists are surveying protected areas of the ocean on the Central Coast. These so-called MPA's or "Marine Protected Areas" are zones along the Central Coast from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara now off-limits to fishing. Is it working?

The crew is up long before the sun, but Bob isn't fazed by the early call or long research hours. Bob is a $250,000 underwater remote-controlled vehicle.

The team's mission is to traverse the ocean floor at depths of 60 to 600 feet.

"Real time were watching that monitoring inside and at the helm-trying to fly plan lines that go across habitat we're targeting," said marine biologist Andy Lauermann.

For the past 20 days, that target habitat has been the State Marine Protected Areas or MPA's of the Central Coast.

The zones were established last year to protect diminishing ocean resources. It's somewhat ironic that the man at the helm of the temporary research vessel is a fisherman.

"They took our best fishing areas away," said Lauermann.

The question now is whether setting certain waters off limits will actually help an ocean in peril and replenish various species.

"We've put these areas into protection and we need to look at them and monitor them to see if exactly what happens in them," said marine biologist Christine Pattison.

It will take years to document changes to the habitat in and around the Marine Protected Areas, but in the Channel Islands, where the first MPA'S were established in 2003, the evidence appears to be mounting quickly.

Konstantin Karpov is the lead scientist supervising the entire project.

"Some of the sites that were selected for MPA's had more abundance only two or three years later. We don't know what the cause of it is but it is a surprise," said Karpov.

Tim Maricich says he lost about 80 percent of his income when the Central Coast MPA's were put into place. He has a vested interest in making sure that policy proves it's for a greater good.

"It's kind of a melding of two teams to get along and we're learning together," said Maricich.

For every hour of video the ROV records, researchers say they'll spend ten hours analyzing their findings.


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