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Global Ocean Refuge Partner Spotlight: MARE


We are happy to shine this Global Ocean Refuge System Partner Spotlight on Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE)!


MARE’s mission is to explore and document the world’s oceans to support their conservation and management. Recognizing the lack of visual data available on deep sub-tidal habitats, and that accurate data is critical to inform effective management and conservation, MARE was founded in 2003 to explore and document deep water ecosystems. We deploy remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for monitoring, exploration and discovery; our niche, is work on the continental shelf to depths down to ~2,200 feet.


With our unique technology and data processing, we inform and collaborate with state and federal agencies, academic institutions, and other non-governmental organizations to affect change. We have built rich, meaningful datasets over the last 15 years with our fleet ROVs, that inform management and conservation activity along our coast, primarily around our MPAs and our National Marine Sanctuaries. To date, MARE has documented over 2,600 kilometers of seafloor off of California’s coast alone.


Blue shark observed with ROV at 80 meters deep off Oregon coast


MARE also started a partnership with Marine Conservation Institute in 2018 to explore and protect vulnerable deep-sea corals off the coast of California. At present, the primary threat to deep-sea corals and sponges is bottom-contact fishing, particularly bottom trawling: a single pass of a trawl net can destroy an ecosystem that has been in place for millennia. The goal of the project is to enable protections for these ancient deep-sea habitat and inform fisheries managers to adopt regulations to protect theses fragile ecosystems. Unfortunately, efforts to prevent damage to deep-sea corals and sponges are hamstrung by a lack of information as to where these ecosystems actually occur. Consequently, these ancient natural communities are being unintentionally destroyed, with no prospect of recovery on any time-scale relevant to humans. The project will focus on gathering sufficient deep-water visual data to inform predictive models.


Giant pacific octopus in deep sea coral garden seen in Northern Channel Islands


We asked why MARE became a Global Ocean Refuge partner:

“MARE has been working to evaluate the effectiveness of MPAs in the recovery of overexploited fisheries within California’s waters over the past 15 years. We have found MPAs to be an effective tool for rebuilding fish populations and in 2016, MARE published its first paper on the long-term monitoring of Channel Islands MPAs. Returning to deep water sites at regular intervals to evaluate changes since baseline studies, we documented a 270% increase in fish populations for 13 harvested species inside, and most importantly outside, the protected areas, achieving synergy with both industry and conservation goals.


Bubblegum coral observed with ROV off the Santa Barbara Channel Islands

The Global Ocean Refuge program elevates well managed marine protected areas for the most effective long term protections based on sound science. As a Global Ocean Refuge partner, MARE can take lessons learned in California and expand conservation efforts around the world.”