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Researchers hope deep sea creatures will take the bait

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Into the depths:a baited remote underwater video station, Bruvs, is deployed in Bermuda’s waters to study deep sea life (Photograph by Kaitlin Noyes)

Researchers are working to study the life hidden in Bermuda’s depths in a bid to understand how to better protect it.

The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences’ Currents newsletter said the two-year study, led by Tim Noyes, would use a mix of cameras and molecular analysis to record life 100 to 3,200ft below the surface of the sea.

Mr Noyes, a research specialist with BIOS, said: “This project will establish baseline measures of biodiversity in Bermuda’s deep waters and help infer connections between other ecologically sensitive habitats and the deep ocean.

“The data will then be available for comparison over time in order to track changes, particularly for species that are of conservation interest or those at risk of accidental capture by commercial fishing gear.”

Joanna Pitt, a marine resources officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, added: “It’s hard to manage marine resources when you don’t know which species are where, or how abundant they are.

“It is particularly challenging when you have fishery species and protected species in the same habitats.

“The broad spatial coverage provided by the deep-Bruvs data is a first for Bermuda, and it will be very helpful to see the types of habitats that the various deepwater fish species utilise, where they differ, and where they overlap.”

The study, bolstered by a Darwin Plus Grant through the UK Government, includes the use of compact camera systems affixed to submersible platforms.

The platforms – called baited remote underwater video stations, or Bruvs – are capable of collecting information about deepwater species where research by divers is not possible.

Video footage already collected revealed bioluminescent fishes, deep-sea crabs measuring 2ft across and a six-gill shark that grabbed a Bruvs submersible and dragged for more than 10 minutes.

Austin Gallagher, a marine biologist with US-based environmental non-profit Beneath the Waves, said Bruvs were useful for the study of predators such as sharks.

Mr Gallagher added: “Contemporary marine conservation efforts focus on protecting large portions of the ocean – however we often have a poor understanding of the biodiversity we are trying to protect.

“This is especially the case for the deep sea, and there is almost nothing known about the life histories of deep-sea sharks.

“This project will hopefully begin to fill in some of those gaps, by focusing on Bermuda’s deep ocean ecosystem.”

Mr Gallagher assisted researchers in Bermuda with six Bruvs deployments in February, with ten more scheduled to take place this month.

The researchers hope to launch 36 deployments a year for two years.

The video footage collected by Bruvs will be analysed to identify and count the species that live deep in the waters around Bermuda and help to evaluate the abundance and diversity of sea life.

Researchers will also test water samples for environmental DNA to identify species even after they have left the area.

The information collected will be used for the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme to help ensure a sustainable fishing industry and to assist in the designation of 20 per cent of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone as no-catch marine protection areas.

Clarification: After publication, the Currents newsletter was edited to state that 36 BRUVS deployments are scheduled per year. This story has been edited to reflect that change.

You are in my domain: a moray eel investigates a marine research platform (Photograph from BIOS)
Ocean detective: researcher Tim Noyes uses an antennae and GPS to locate the deep-BRUVS once it returns to the surface (Photograph by Kaitlin Noyes)

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Published March 30, 2022 at 7:39 am (Updated March 31, 2022 at 3:30 pm)

Researchers hope deep sea creatures will take the bait

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