WELLINGTON, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand and U.S. scientists are set to survey one of the world's longest underwater mountain ranges next month to determine whether the unique ecosystem has been damaged by commercial fishing.
The five-week study of the Louisville Seamount Chain, which extends 4,300 km through the South Pacific, would help to understand how to preserve vulnerable ecosystems and improve fisheries management, according the New Zealand government's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
NIWA marine ecologist Ashley Rowden said there was concern that fragile ecosystems, which could exist on the Louisville Seamount Chain, were being adversely affected by commercial fishing as the area supports extensive trawl fisheries.
With limited information about the distribution and characteristics of the vulnerable marine ecosystems of the seamount chain, scientists at NIWA and the U.S. Marine Conservation Institute had developed "habitat suitability models" to predict the whereabouts of various sea animals that indicate the presence of a vulnerable marine ecosystem.
"The fishing industry needs to know these models are accurate and this survey represents one of the first examples of validating habitat suitability models that are to be used for fisheries management," Rowden said in a statement Wednesday.
An underwater camera would be towed behind NIWA research vessel, the Tangaroa, to provide evidence of vulnerable species, and specimens would be gathered also.
"We are using the camera because we want to be as non- destructive as possible, but the specimens we do collect will help improve our understanding of the evolution of marine species in the Pacific, as well as the genetic connections between populations," Rowden said.
The Tangaroa would leave Wellington on Friday bound for an area about 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand and return in early March.
The voyage is part of a collaborative agreement between the U.S. and New Zealand governments to enhance scientific understanding in the Pacific region.