Protecting California's Seamounts
Seamounts are massive underwater volcanoes that act as biodiversity hotspots throughout the deep ocean.
These features support incredible levels of biodiversity, acting as oases in the often sparsely populated deep sea. Due to the habitat they provide and their influence on surrounding ocean currents, they support extremely high abundances of benthic and pelagic organisms including sponges, anemones, corals, crabs, fish, sharks, seabirds, turtles, whales, and dolphins.
Californian seamounts stand poised at a critical conservation junction. With the advent of new technology and increasing commercial interest in the deep sea, a barrage of threats including fishing, oil and natural gas extraction, seafloor mining, and climate change endanger these fragile ecosystems. Despite the high potential to lose these seamount ecosystems in the coming decades they are shockingly bereft of protection, making effective and long-term conservation planning critical for saving these habitats before they are irrevocably damaged.
The seamounts off the California coast urgently need strong, permanent protection from these threats. The California Seamount Coalition works to secure protection for these unique and vulnerable habitats. In 2019, the coalition announced the California seamounts as a Mission Blue Hope Spot, special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. The seamounts were also designated as a Marine Conservation Institute Blue Spark, a program designed to help guide the creation of strong, effective marine protected areas. It is urgent that we act now to designate these deep-sea treasures as protected areas to safeguard their ecological and cultural value for us and for generations to come.