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NOAA reports never-seen-before marine life in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

  • BRIAN HAUK / NOAA
    Scientists discovered a new species of seahorse living 300 feet below the ocean surface at Pioneer Bank in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
  • NOAA / RICHARD PYLE / BISHOP MUSEUM
    A curious Galapagos shark approaches NOAA scientist Dr. Randall Kosaki and team as they slowly decompress on their way to the surface from a 300 foot dive at Pioneer Bank in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
  • NOAA / RICHARD PYLE / BISHOP MUSEUM
    Every fish in the picture is a Hawaiian endemic species -- not known from anywhere else except Hawaii. Deep reefs at Kure Atoll were discovered to have the highest levels of endemism known from any marine ecosystem on Earth
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Scientists returned from a 28-day research expedition today aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Hi‘ialakai to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, reportng marine life never seen before, including a possible new species of seahorse and a sea star not previously found in Hawaii.

The scientists used advanced diving technology to survey reefs within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument at depths up to 300 feet, deeper than what conventional scuba gear allows, NOAA said in a news release today.

The scientists said they were able to observe rarely seen ecosystems. Fish surveys showed an extremely high abundance of species found only in the Hawaiian Islands, NOAA said.

“On some of the deep reefs we surveyed, 100 percent of the fishes we recorded were endemic, meaning that they are all unique to the Hawaiian archipelago,” said Randall Kosaki Ph.D., NOAA’s deputy superintendent of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and chief scientist of the expedition. “This is the highest level of endemism recorded from any marine ecosystem on Earth.”

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