Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed a video lander that captured this amazing footage of the fish swimming around a rocky reef at Stone Wall Bank, 10 to 15 miles off the coast of Newport.
The lander is much cheaper than a remote-operated vehicle, designed for steep rocky terrain, and it can be deployed “like a crab pot” from a relatively small research boat.
Co-developer of the lander Bob Hannah of ODFW said not all of the ocean off the Oregon coast looks like this – other areas are “quite a bit less fishy” – and it can be tough to find such clear water.
But it shows that the state’s new lander could be useful in assessing fish populations in rocky reef habitat, he said. Some species of rockfish such as yellow-eye have very low numbers, and it’s hard to estimate their population without catching them.
“With the lander we can study an area to figure out who’s living where, and what kind of habitat they’re in,” said Hannah. “You can’t necessarily get that from catch data.”
The lander was designed with an eye toward studying fish in the state’s new marine reserves, where fishing isn’t allowed.
“We don’t have another method for doing coast-wide surveys,” said Hannah. “We need a tool for nearshore rocky areas. We need a tool for marine reserves that doesn’t require you to catch a fish.”
In the video clip above, the lander is deployed with a bait bag of chopped herring to attract fish. You can see several species of rockfish, kelp greenling and Pacific halibut swimming around the camera.