Held every 3 years, the Symposium is the world's foremost gathering of scientists studying its largest habitat the deep ocean. This year more than 300 deep-sea biologists from 27 countries are attending the conference in Southampton, UK.
The Symposium has twin themes of exploring the unknown and understanding our impact in the vast deep-sea realm, which covers more than 300 million km2. This is 60 per cent of our planet's surface and more than 30 times larger than the tropical rainforests. The 340 papers and posters that delegates are presenting at the meeting include the following discoveries:
Impact of whaling on deep-sea biodiversity
Whaling threatens newly-discovered deep-sea species with extinction, according to a study by Craig Smith at the University of Hawaii and his colleagues. When the bodies of dead whales sink to the ocean floor, they create island-like habitats for deep-sea life that last for decades. So far biologists have discovered 28 new species that may depend exclusively on whale carcasses for food. Whaling, however, deprives the ocean floor of this resource.
Smith and his colleagues applied simple models from conservation biology to explore the impact of whaling on the extinction of deep-sea animals that live on whale carcasses. Their results suggest that species extinctions may have already occurred in the North Atlantic where great whales were decimated in the 1800s. Extinction may also be ongoing in the Southern Ocean, where intense whaling persisted until the 1970s.
These findings highlight the need to consider the effects of whaling and other types of fishing on entire ecosystems, rather than focussing narrowly on targe
Contact: Kim Marshall-Brown
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories