New Species Found, New Records Set, Beneath the Bering Sea

A New Species of Sponge: Aaptos kanuux, Discovered During Last Summer's Greenpeace Expedition to the Bering Sea (Photo © Greenpeace/Thomas Einberger)BERING SEA, Alaska — On August 1, 2007, Kenneth Lowyck took his tiny sub to one of the expedition’s “shallower” dives, to about 700 feet into the Bering Sea’s Pribolof Canyon, where he extended the sub’s manipulator arm and collected rock containing a tiny, unassuming white sponge. Months later, there would be no doubt: This was a new species, named Aaptos kanuux, the word “kanuux” being the Aleut word for “heart,” in honor of the Bering Sea’s canyons, considered to be the heart of the Bering Sea. It was the first time the genus Aaptos has ever been documented in the Bering Sea. The discovery comes on the heels of Earth Day and will likely herald future announcements of new species discovered during last summer’s Greenpeace expedition to the Bering Sea’s two largest canyons.

1planet1ocean president David Guggenheim participated as a science advisor and submarine pilot. Analysis continues, but already it has been noted that half of the 14 deep sea corals documented during the expedition were never before seen in the Bering Sea. Nor were two thirds of the 20 or so sponge species documented. And the expedition provided the first record of black coral of any kind and the first record of stony coral in the Bering Sea. NOAA biologist Robert Stone participated in the expedition and co-authored a recent paper with Greenpeace scientist John Hocevar presented the new findings at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. You can see a copy of the report online. The expedition was undertaken to collect information needed to inform conservation policies by the North Pacific Fisheries Council. The expedition team documented numerous examples of extensive damage to corals by fishing trawlers, which essentially clearcut the bottom with their nets.

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