So what did they find? The multibeam mapping tracks
indicated that Raita Bank was relatively close to where it is supposed
to be according to nautical charts, but West St. Rogatien Bank was
found to be almost 2 miles to the northeast of its shown location!
From the sub and ROV observations, the tops of the banks were covered
with rhodoliths formed by calcareous algae, while the slopes were
characterized by low relief carbonate rock interspersed with sand
channels. Researchers found large numbers of fish, including huge
schools of beautiful little anthiid groupers (Fig. 6), but were
very surprised at the lack of deepwater coral species that could
be damaged by anchors and lead fishing weights. Very little fishing
debris was observed, likely due to the low number of boats that
fish these banks. These initial findings will surely be well received
by the bottomfishers; however, conclusions and recommendations will
only be made after additional dives are completed next fall.
Figure 6. Anthiid groupers observed around
These dives into the deep waters of the Northwest
Hawaiian Islands Reserve produced valuable information on the impacts
of bottomfishing on two banks in the reserve. The fish and invertebrate
counts are still being analyzed, but will lead to the development
of a baseline from which the impacts of bottomfishing can be assessed.
Information on the ecology of an endangered seal and a number of
potential new species in this area were gained as well (see http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/HURL/Q2_2002.html).
These dives furthermore underscored just how little we know about
this huge area of the marine environment now under federal protection