Photo by Ivan Agerton for OceanX
As we stare down apocalyptic news about the state of our oceans and life on earth, it’s good to take a step back and remind ourselves just what we are fighting for. For me, that means taking a (virtual) dive through the unique and otherworldly beauty that is the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. For the uninitiated, the Canyons and Seamounts, located to the Southeast of Cape Cod, is a marine protected area--a blue park--that is designed to protect diverse and unique marine places from exploitation.
Over the next few weeks, my virtual dives in the Canyons and Seamounts have come courtesy of the recently announced collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies and OceanX. As a part of their efforts to encourage greater scientific understanding and greater public appreciation of our oceans, they conducted a dive in the Monument, both to learn more about this amazing ecosystem perched on the edge of the North American continent, and to make the case that we need more places like it.
As footage from the expedition highlights, the more we explore these amazing and mysterious places, the more it becomes clear just why it is so important to protect them. Not only are marine protected areas like the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts home to the big, beautiful marine animals we all know and love--the whales, dolphins and sharks that pass through the area each year on their annual migrations--they also protect the smaller, rarer, sometimes unknown animals that populate the deep ocean. From vibrant, lacy bamboo corals to spiky red sea spiders, the life that thrives on the slopes of the underwater valleys and the sides of underwater mountains is both stunningly beautiful and essential to the broader sweep of life up the water column.
It is these strange, beautiful and alien ecosystems that marine protected areas, like the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, are designed to protect. Free from the threat of commercial exploitation, sea life can develop and grow in natural patterns, providing scientists with an opportunity to learn more about the deep sea, and, more importantly, providing the whole ecosystem with an opportunity to adapt and evolve to the changing ocean.
The fact that this place and others like it will now receive more attention through the new videos and discoveries OceanX makes will not only strengthen the case for protecting ocean habitats--it also means that more people like me will be able to take a break from the drumbeat of depressing environmental news and remember what, exactly, we are working to save.