CHONe Research: 2018 Laurentian Channel Research Cruise
July 6-17, 2018

Photo: Laurentian Channel Cruise 2017 / Photo Credit: ROPOS

About

The 2018 Laurentian Channel Research Cruise, July 6-17, is the second of two missions in a joint strategic research program between the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe), and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The team of participants from CHONe, DFO Maritimes, and DFO NL work together to study biological communities in the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest (AOI). Their mission: contribute to marine conservation-related research.

Overview: Marine Protected Areas and the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest

Marine Protected Area’s (MPA) are a major tool to facilitate protection of marine species and ecosystems. MPA effectiveness depends on many factors that include, the size and location of boundaries of the area, and the type and level of protection, among others. Demonstrating whether MPAs effectively meet their conservation objectives requires development and implementation of cost-effective monitoring strategies. Broadly, CHONe seeks to evaluate effective monitoring protocols and indicators for a proposed MPA, Laurentian Channel. The Laurentian Channel Area of Interest (AOI), off the continental shelf of Newfoundland and Labrador, is one of the largest AOIs in Canada (11,619 km2; depths of 86 to 435m). Conservation objectives for this DFO AOI include the protection of deep-water corals (principally sea pens), as well as black dogfish, smooth skate, porbeagle shark, Northern wolffish and leatherback sea turtles.

Sea pen concentrations in the Laurentian Channel exceed those for any known location within the entire Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Bioregion. The high abundances of these corals presumably play a role as habitat providers for many other organisms, including commercial species. CHONe’s research focus is on sea pens, fish diversity, seafloor functioning, and how those compare between locations inside and outside the Laurentian Channel AOI.

Research Objectives
–  advancing the understanding the location, health, and integrity of cold water corals and sponges, including their abundance, growth rates, size and any damage;
– identifying important as well as sensitive marine seafloor habitats and evaluating how those systems work;
– and advancing the understanding of locations of enhanced productivity supporting seafloor ecosystems, including biodiversity of fishes and other species that utilize those habitats.

Through these objectives, CHONe will help develop strategies to enable its partners to generate effective monitoring indicators of ecosystem status, and identification of appropriate comparison sites outside the sea pen areas to help understand any changes in the ecosystem.

Research Sampling Methods
CHONe will collect samples at survey locations both within and outside the Laurentian Channel AOI using the following equipment:
– Campod, an underwater photo and video system, will be deployed to gather seafloor imagery
– Multicorer equipment will be used to collect soft sediment samples from the seafloor

CHONe Project 1.2.4 (Laurentian Channel) Research
This mission supports the research of three CHONe PhD students studying marine seafloor habitats and how seafloor ecosystems function in the Laurentian Channel AOI.
Marion Boulard, Memorial University, will collect seabed imagery for the identification of fish species distributions, abundance, and habitat associations.
Sarah de Mendonça, Dalhousie University, is focusing on sea pen assemblages and will collect seafloor imagery (primary focus).
Marta Miatta, Memorial University, will collect sediment samples to analyze key ecosystem functions and various abiotic and biotic variables, also with a focus on sea pens.

This research is in line with the principle objectives of CHONe project 1.2.4 to understand linkages between fish, seafloor organisms, and biogeochemical processes. This research also aims to contribute to the development of effective conservation priorities and strategies for the Laurentian Channel AOI.

More information:
Click here to read more about the 2018 Laurentian Channel Mission.
Stay tuned for web features on the CHONe researchers and students taking part in the mission.