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Sponge forest on hard bottom.
Photo: MAREANO/Havforskningsinstituttet
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The first MAREANO survey 2013 is in progress

Cruise Diary: MAREANO's first biology / geology / chemistry survey in 2013 started on Wednesday 12 June from Kristiansund, west of Norway. This time the research ship "Johan Hjort" is used.

There has been some excitement related to this survey since this ship is different from the "G.O. Sars" in many ways. On MAREANO's first survey in 2006, the research vessel Håkon Mosby was used, but from 2007 until now, all seabed samples have been taken – inclusive the video observations – from R/V GO Sars.

The purpose of the survey is to document and map the seabed through video and bottom samples at Skjoldryggen and, if the time schedule allows it, also Storegga. These studies are needed to identify habitats, species diversity, sediment composition and pollutants off mid-Norway. Video recordings are made by using the video rig Campod and its HD camera. Bottom samples are taken with grab, corer samples, beam trawl and epi-benthic sled.

The first part of the cruise, 12-20 June, is allocated to the Skjoldryggen area, a moraine near the edge of the continental shelf. The management plan for the Norwegian Sea defines this area as being highly valuable, where the water masses are being vertically mixed and where a relatively high nutritional supplement leads to high plankton production. The area is also known for having many coral reefs, but these have not been accurately located, only roughly indicated through by-catch in fishing gears.

So far, we have examined 18 sites, of which four have been physically sampled. In general, the surveyed localities are dominated by sandy clay with varying proportion of gravel and stone. In the shallowest areas, the bottom is dominated by stone. Here we observed hard-bottom sponge gardens including the chalice sponge, Phakellia ventilabrum, and the funnel shaped sponge, Axinella infundibuliformis. Within depressions on the shelf, we have observed seapens and burrowing megafauna communities. At one site we found bamboo coral (Isidella lofotensis) which otherwise is more common within fjords than on the shelf and is one of the few gorgonian corals growing on soft bottoms. On the slope, at about 500-600 m depth, the Greenland halibut is common. The active fisheries on this species are apparent from the frequent trawlmarks observed.

We have two guests on the cruise, Arnaud Pourchez (graduate student at the University of Paris) and Sarah Gerken (professor at the University of Anchorage, Alaska). Arnaud studies the distribution of fish and fish communities using the MAREANO material, and is additionally gaining general survey experience. Sarah is a crustacean expert, in particular the group Cumacea, or hooded shrimps, and she uses the sampled material to study coloration and morphology of living comma crayfish and take samples of selected animals for genetic analysis.


Pål Buhl-Mortensen
55 23 85 99
Beate Hoddevik
908 21 630