NOAA 2002-040
Contact: Sarah Marquis
NOAA News Releases 2002
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On April 24th, a group of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists and resource managers will start probing the depths of five Pacific Coast national marine sanctuaries on a 60-day excursion into new underwater environments. The program is called Sanctuary Quest: West Coast Expedition 2002, and is run by the sanctuary program of NOAA's National Ocean Service. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Using the research tools of the NOAA ship McArthur and a U.S. Navy remotely operated vehicle (ROV), expedition scientists will embark on five ocean missions that start in the deep waters of California's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and end in Washington's Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary 60 days later.

The mission will explore three other NOAA marine sanctuaries in Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank, all located along the California coast. The use of the ROV continues work that began with the NOAA / National Geographic Society Sustainable Seas Expedition in 1999 and 2000. The ROV provided by the U.S. Navy has monitoring and surveying capabilities, a manipulator for sample collection, and a camera for deep-water videography.

"We will be able to observe and collect data in deep underwater mountains, canyons, and volcano habitats that we know little about and have never explored before," said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program.

"Our scientists will compare these relatively undisturbed underwater areas with those that have been altered by human activity. These results will have direct application to management issues and will contribute to the ongoing research and data collection within the sanctuary program," said Basta. "We will also investigate ship wrecks as cultural resources and for their potential impact on the marine environment."

Sanctuary Quest is part of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program's ongoing exploration of the country's 13 national marine sanctuaries, a system of marine areas designated by Congress to protect and preserve their extraordinary biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy.

The expedition's science platform is the NOAA ship McArthur, a 175-foot Class III ship that conducts the agency's oceanographic research and assessments along the Pacific Coast. A complement of three officers, 19 crew members and 13 scientists will carry out the expedition, including rotating in personnel from each of the five sanctuaries.

The expedition also examines the role and function of the sanctuaries in protecting and conserving marine resources that exist in a much larger natural ecosystem.

"We are working to understand how the sanctuaries function as a system," said Basta. "The area of this expedition represents a small part of a much larger, very dynamic ecosystem. This research is an example of how the National Marine Sanctuary Program integrates science with management of resources within a much larger ecosystem. The observations and data are critically needed to make sound management decisions."

The expedition joins a number of agencies and organizations in partnership. Mission participants include the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Services Center, the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Department of Fish and Game, Moss Landing Marine Lab, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and many other academic and private institutions.

Sanctuary Quest: West Coast Expedition 2002 investigates Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary April 24-May 4, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary May 5-15, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary May 16-25, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary May 26-June 5, and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary June 10-20.

You can follow mission explorations by visiting

NOAA Ocean Service (NOS) manages The National Marine Sanctuary Program. NOAA Ocean Service is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats, and mitigating coastal hazards.