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Painting the Underwater Protected “Ocean Park”

By Nicola Hartmann, U Jin Jo, Filip Kierzenka, Ivy Li, and Lucy Martinson, IV Form & Sean Farrell, Paula Hornbostel, Helen Huang, Paige LaMalva, Aidana Maitekova,  Isabelle O’Toole, Illia Rebechar, and Sophie Student, III Form

Painting the Underwater Protected “Ocean Park”

Map of National Monument

Map of National Monument. 150 miles SouthEast of Cape Cod:      4, 913 square miles.

On September 15, 2016, President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (map right) to be the Atlantic Ocean’s first underwater protected area. Open to recreational fishing and phasing out commercial fishing will make this area, the size of Connecticut, a valuable research area and refuge for marine life. Dr. Scott Krauss, senior advisor and scientist at the New England Aquarium, was instrumental in securing this area of crucial habitats with 1,000-year-old deep sea corals, unique characteristics of three canyons — deeper than the Grand Canyon — and four deepwater seamounts — 13,000 feet from the ocean floor. Protected from oil, gas exploration, and overfishing, scientists will be able to observe and understand changes. The marked area will help preserve rare and endangered corals, fish, invertebrates, turtles, and three species of whale.

Students in Studio I made this new protected space their area of investigation.


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Paige LaMalva ‘20

North Atlantic Right Whale Eubalaena Glacialis

Status:  Extremely rare and now one of the most endangered species in the world.. only 300-350 Right Whales remain despite laws passed to protect them in the 1930’s. Right Whales used to travel in groups of hundreds at a time but now only travel in groups of three or less.

Habitat: They are found in mild, shallow, coastal waters at temperatures of about 50º F. Right Whales are slow swimmers who move at the speed of 6 mph. They migrate down to Florida and Georgia and then back to the Bay of Fundy in Canada.

North Atlantic Right Whales eat plankton and krill and have many rows of baleen plates to filter the food. They are slow swimmers, so they are prone to ship strikes and fishing net entanglement. They can live for over thirty years. Females breed every three to five years after maturing to age ten. They give birth between December and March near the coasts of Georgia and Florida. After they give birth, the whales migrate to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Females can reach lengths of 18 meters and weigh 75 tons, while male wholesales reach 12.9 meters and weigh less. Threats for this species include historical exploitation from hunting, pollution from waters, lack of echo-location volume.

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Illia Rebechar ’20

Mackerel  Scomber scombrus, Blue marlin Makaira Nigricans

Status:  Mackerel are plentiful, however the Blue Marlin is extremely rare and believed to be endangered.

Habitat: Both fish swim near the surface and usually do not dive deep into the water column. Mackerel are native to both the European and American continents and vary in size. On the United States coasts, their location ranges from Labrador South to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. They are found at the edges of the Continental Shelf. Mackerel are capable of spawning up to a million eggs per season. Eggs are re-suspended high in the water column. Mackerel can live for up to twenty years and can grow to be 7.5 pounds.  

Blue Marlin are one of the most recognizable of all fish for their unique blue and yellow coloring and lines as well as their meat, which is a delicacy in Japan. Blue Marlin migrate constantly and are always moving but they do prefer high temperature surface waters. They feed on Mackerel and Tuna but will also dive to deeper waters for squid. They are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, and move from Southern Canada to the African continent…they move so frequently that it is impossible to know exactly how many remain. Blue Marlin follow warm ocean currents for hundreds of miles.  

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Nicola Hartmann ’19

Longfin Squid Doryteuthis pealeii, Swordfish Xiphias gladius

Status:  Longfin squid are not endangered. Swordfish were in trouble in the 1990’s due to overfishing, but the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) pushed for protected areas to save the population. Now, they have recovered to more sustainable numbers because of these protected areas.   

Habitat: Longfin squid are found around or below 1,000 feet depths.  The population of Longfin squid migrates to Cape Cod in the spring and return to warmer temperatures near North Carolina in the winter. They have a short life cycle, living only up to one year. They produce 3,000-6,000 eggs but can spawn year round. Longfin squid are independent and do not move in groups or schools. Longfin Squid are aggressive hunters and eat crustaceans and plankton. They have ten arms, eight of which are the same length and two are longer for grabbing prey.   

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Ivy Li ’19

Bubblegum Coral Paragorgia arborea

Status:  Threatened. Bubblegum corals are susceptible to damage caused by bottom trawling for seafood; although not specific protection is in place, there has been some regulations on bottom trawling.  

Habitat:  Living in a wide range of  depth, generally 200-1300 meters. bubblegum corals grow and form colonies along the seamounts, ridges and pinnacles found in the Marine Monument. Coral selectively feed on nearby plankton passing by, using their eight tentacles to retrieve prey. They travel with water movements to better catch their prey. They eject both sperm and eggs to reproduce, and fertilization takes place outside their bodies in the water. The eggs grow in cold water.

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Sean Farrell ’20

Loggerhead Turtles Caretta, Compass Jellyfish Chrysaora Hysoscella

Status: Loggerheads are endangered while the jellyfish are not. Loggerhead turtles are endangered because the beaches where they nest are crowded with people and buildings that threaten the habitats. Nests require warm temperatures, but buildings cast shadows that cause the temperature to be too low for the the eggs to develop. Because of this, the eggs become predominantly male. In the ocean, the turtles are carnivores: they eat jellies, conches, crabs, and other organisms that swim close to the surface.  

Habitat:  Loggerheads nest from tropics to the temperate zone — a wide range for turtles — and the larger turtles are found in the Atlantic Ocean. They migrate from Spain all the way to the Gulf of Mexico to nest, and sometimes even travel as far south as Central America. They later return, a distance of 16,00o miles each year! Their ideal water temperature is 13.3º C – 28º C, so these animals and can be found in every ocean except for the Arctic. They are endangered also because of bycatch. % of death this way. Their only predator is a shark. On average, they are 90 cm when fully grown, and weigh 155-375 pounds on average.  

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Filip Kierzenka ’19

Phytoplankton, Chaetoceros debilis, Ditylum Brightwellii

Habitat:  Atlantic coast, northern Maine and Canada. Euphotic zone 600-900 feet.

Chaetoceros debilis are found along the Atlantic coast up to Northern Maine and Canada. They are hunted and eaten by whales as they pass through during their migration. When they reach the waters of the Dominican Republic to give birth, they have enough energy to survive both the trip and giving birth. Phytoplankton are only .2-.5 mm long, but they chain up in coils and build up their surface area, so that they float in the right height 600-900 feet below the surface in the Euphotic zone. That is where they undergo photosynthesis — when they carry carbon dioxide to the bottom of the ocean, it is trapped there. Neither have moving apparatus, they can only float with the currents. Phytoplankton are very common and they bloom in late winter and spring because that is when there are the most nutrients in the ocean. When the snow melts, the run off that leads to the ocean contains nutrients. All phytoplankton bloom in the spring. The gulf stream carries them north.  

Ditylum brightwellii

Diatom — a majority of the phytoplankton in salt water. These are eaten by a wide range of prey: blue whales, shrimp, jellyfish, other zooplankton. Ditylum brightwellii are the base of the food chain. They are even more commonly found in all global oceans except at the poles. Photosynthesis and stay in the euphoric zone. They have spines that can irritate fish gills.  

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Aidana Maitekova ’20

Sea Anemones Actiniaria

Status: Very plentiful and live up to 50 years and reproduce. Predators are large fish, crabs, octopus, and sometimes sea stars. Anemones trap fish as they come through their tentacles by stinging them, and then place the wounded fish in their mouths at the center of all the tentacles. Sometimes sea stars can be afraid of the venom that is emitted from the anemone’s tentacles and they avoid them, while some can also be predators to the anemones.

Habitat: The many species of anemones live in tropical reefs, intertidal reefs, as well as colder waters, sand and kelp environments, and others near the surface. Sea anemones are sold to aquariums worldwide, so they are depleted. Further, when they are relocated, their life span shortens and often they cannot reproduce. The size of an anemone ranges from four millimeters to two meters.  

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U Jin Jo ’19

Whale Shark Rhincodon Typus, Phytoplankton

Status: Both species are endangered because they affect each other. The thinner ozone layer is creating more radiation from the sun that is killing the phytoplankton. This is a problem because when phytoplankton die, they sink, and take carbon dioxide with them. The negative effects are conspicuous to us: we know that the whale shark does not have enough food to eat. We also do not know how much carbon dioxide our land and ocean can take. It is important for us to think Phytoplankton is important because they create more oxygen than trees. Therefore, if plankton keep dying, it will reach a point where whales can no longer feed on them, then both whales and plankton will become extinct. ALL fish depend on plankton in one way or another, so this microscopic organism is crucial and needs to be protected.  

Habitat: They live near surface waters to feed, and in deep water during the winter. Whale shark eggs hatch inside the mother, and she gives birth to live young. As the plankton decrease, the whale shark population also suffers.

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Lucy Martinson ’19

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin Lagenorhynchus Acutus

Status: Solid — the population is about 175,000.  The main threats are hunting, entanglement in fishing gear, and chemical pollution.

Habitat: They live in cool temperate waters along the coast from North Carolina to Greenland. In the winter, they move offshore. In summers, they come in towards shore and swim north. White-sided dolphins feed on squid, shrimp, and other small fish such as mackerel, cod, and herring.

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Isabelle O’Toole ’20

Hawksbill Turtle  Eretmochelys imbricata

Status: Critically endangered. They use their hard shells for protection; their predators include large fish such as sharks. Other predators include octopus, humans and our fishing, and shrimp nets. According to the website usa.oceana.org, “Every year the federal government allows shrimp trawls to harass and potentially injure over half a million sea turtles in the Gulf and the Atlantic, as well as kill an estimated 53,000 turtles.” Fishermen are now using nets with metal grates, so the turtles can escape more easily.

Habitat: Usually found by sponges and reefs; they live in rocky places, lagoons, and in shallow coastal waters, usually in depths up to 65 feet. They do not swim into deep waters. Hawksbill Turtles can grow up to 30-45 inches and weigh 100-150 pounds. Their heads form a point and they have no teeth.When they’re young, the shell is heart-shaped and as they grow, it lengthens into an oval shape. The jagged-edged shell is colored brown and has bright yellow lines, and the bottom of the shell is yellow, camouflaging them with seaweed. Older turtles’ shells develop scutes, which are sections on the shell. Hawksbill turtles eat mollusks, marine algae (seaweed), crustaceans, sea urchins, and jellyfish. Their life expectancy ranges from 30 to 50 years. They eat about 1000 pounds of sponges per year and by doing so, help to control the environment: if the sponges were able to grow, they would become much bigger than the corals, thus suffocating the reef.  

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Paula Hornbostel ’20

Humpback Whale Megaptera Novaeangliae

Status: A threatened population. They have long flippers on their sides, usually one-third of their body length. They have thick blubber and baleen plates.

Habitat: They live in both polar and tropical waters, such as in the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific oceans. Humpback whales prefer shallow waters because of location of food source. They eat tiny crustaceans and small fish; a total of  3000 pounds of food every day.

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Helen Huang ’20

Octopus briareus

Status: Not threatened. Don’t threaten humans, nor do humans seek them out, and aren’t exposed to any major threats. They are mostly solitary and non-aggressive. Predators include sharks, stingrays, and other large fish. They can spray ink to get away from predators, as well as eject jets of water for a quick getaway. Typically for colors they are blue-green and crimson, with some brown. They can change colors rapidly for camouflage. Octopus eat small fish, crab, shrimp, and lobsters, usually during dawn or dusk. They have powerful beak-like mouths, which explains why they can get into lobster shells. They are about 60cm long at maturity and weigh about 3.3 pounds. Both males and females are similar in size and color. Males and females mate when they are about 3-4 months old. Females lay about 500 eggs at the end of their life span, usually in some enclosed lair. The female stays with the eggs until they hatch. Eggs take about 50-80 days to hatch. Once born, the octopus can swim, eat, change color/texture, and spurt ink immediately, and can grow to 75% of its full size by about 17 weeks.

Habitat: They live in shallow waters up to 448 meters deep near the walls of canyons. Sometimes they move within coral reefs and seagrass beds to hide within the rocks. 

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Sophie Student ’20

Common Octopus Octopus vulgaris, Sea Anemone Actiniaria

Status: The common octopus is not endangered, which can be attributed to its amazing eyesight (they can see in the dark) and extreme intelligence. It defends itself by squirting a cloud of ink through its siphon and is capable of moving backward rapidly away from its predator. To reproduce, the male will do one of two things: he will either approach a female octopus and use his hectocotylus (an arm holding sperm) and insert it into the female’s oviduct (part of the octopi’s reproduction system) or remove the arm from his body and give it to the female to fertilize her eggs later. The male dies a few months after mating, and the female dies shortly after giving birth. The female does not eat the entire time that she tends to her eggs. They eat crustaceans and mollusks, and they are the prey of sharks and other large fish. To hide from these predators, an octopus will camouflage themselves by spontaneously changing the color of its body to match its surroundings. Octopi live only 3-5 years, and young octopi increase their weight by 5% every day.

Sea anemones live from 60-80 years, and during their lifespan, they are often eaten before reaching their expected lifespan. The anemone are almost completely sedentary so they use from 12 to more than 100 microscopic stinging structures (nematocysts) to poison their prey that swims or lurks close to them. They eat algae, mostly symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae), and they also eat tiny plankton and fish. They are eaten by sea slugs, starfish, eels, flounder, cod, and sea turtles. The anemone can reproduce in a few different ways. They can be reproduced asexually (when the anemone essentially makes a copy of herself by dividing into halves) or they can reproduced sexually. Eggs and sperm are released into the water to form a new anemone. This new anemone, after becoming full grown over a two-week period, will then find a place on the rocks or on the ocean floor to live.  


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