Campus: MONTEREY BAY -- April 27, 2007

Scientists reveal highly detailed imagery of California seafloor CSUMB’s Seafloor Mapping Lab leading the way

The California Ocean Protection Council and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program have announced findings revealing unprecedented detailed imagery of the seafloor, including in areas of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off Half Moon Bay, where the famed “Mavericks” waves are among the largest in the continental United States.

Dr. Rikk Kvitek and CSUMB’s Seafloor Mapping Lab are leading this $3.5 million project.

The California Coast State Waters Mapping Project allows scientists for the first time to see highly detailed, three-dimensional images of the seafloor off California’s coast. New data illustrates the rugged seafloor conditions surrounding Mavericks more clearly and helps better explain ocean ecosystems and underwater activities like large waves and earthquakes.

“This type of cutting-edge research is essential to understanding the unique aspects of our national marine sanctuaries,” said Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Maria Brown. “The marine sanctuary will use these images to educate future ocean scientists and foster citizen stewardship.”

Using advanced sonar equipment called shipboard multibeam echo sounders and aerial light detection bathymetric sensing instruments, detailed underwater pictures were produced. The images distinguish critical underwater habitats and highlight the faults, chasms, fissures, crevices, and pinnacles on the sea floor. Scientists and resource managers will use the information to identify potential biological hot spots to aid their understanding of the highly productive, diverse undersea ecosystem along the California coast.

“This research is extremely valuable in identifying areas important to the Marine Life Protection Act process and could simultaneously help to predict seismic hazards along California’s coast,” said Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman, chair of the Ocean Protection Council.

Also significant is the survey’s charting of navigational hazards such as hidden reefs and sunken obstacles. Knowing where hazards are located is essential for the safety of vessels that use these waters. This is the first time scientists have been able to show the shallow near shore reef in such detail.

Geologic hazards along the seismically active California coast have also been identified. The survey documents the position and physical features associated with the marine segments of the San Gregorio fault in the Half Moon Bay Area, a major active fault within the San Andreas Fault System.

The project is a collaboration of the California Ocean Protection Council, the California Coastal Conservancy’s California Coastal and Marine Mapping Initiative, the California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation, and the National Marine Sanctuaries. Dr. Rikk Kvitek, Director of the Seafloor Mapping Lab at California State University, Monterey Bay, and Guy Cochrane of the United States Geological Survey, led the project. Project partners also include Fugro Pelagos International and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

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