This joint expedition will visit three distinct areas of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), a region comprising one of the world’s most productive and biologically rich ocean areas protecting over 700 species of fish and deep benthic species. Pioneer Canyon is in the northern portion of MBNMS, and is administered by Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. This canyon, which was partially opened to bottom trawling in January 2020, will be surveyed to identify sensitive areas home to long-lived deep sea coral and sponge communities. Information and data collected during this expedition will help to inform policy decisions for vulnerable species.
Some areas of interest include the octopus nurseries discovered on previous expeditions located on the southeastern flanks of Davidson Seamount, the nearby actively scavenged whale fall, and previously unexplored ridges south of Davidson Seamount, which are unexplored but potentially host large communities of cold-water coral and sponge. Davidson Seamount is an inactive volcanic undersea mountain habitat off the coast of central California and is one of the largest known seamounts in U.S. waters. From base to crest, the seamount is 2,280 meters tall (7,500 feet), yet its summit is still 1,250 meters (4,100 feet) below the sea surface. The seamount has been called "An Oasis in the Deep" in an otherwise flat seafloor, hosting large coral forests, vast sponge fields, crabs, deep-sea fishes, shrimp, basket stars, and high numbers of rare and unidentified benthic species.