Scientists find diverse marine life in Benham Rise

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2016 08:10 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2016 10:29 PM

Benham Rise BRUVS video - Marble Ray

A marble ray checks out the bait bag on our baited remote underwater video system (BRUVS) during the Benham Rise expedition. Oceana Philippines

MANILA - Marine scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the University of the Philippines (UP), and Oceana were able to document a wide array of corals, fish, algae and other marine like in its week-long expedition to Benham Rise in May.

“We saw terraces of corals, as far as the eye could see. It’s so exciting to know that we have such a vast and pristine coral reef ecosystem within Philippine territory,” Marianne Pan-Saniano, marine scientist for Oceana Philippines, said in a statement.

Benham Bank is the shallowest portion of Benham Rise. It includes a section recognized by the United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as the Philippines’ newest territory in 2012.

During the first expedition in 2014, scientists were able to cover five stations and dive for 25 minutes. In last month's expedition, the scientists were able to extensively study the underwater terrain of Benham Bank, with the aid of cutting-edge technology.

On board the government research vessel MV DA-BFAR, the expedition team left for Benham Bank last May 23 and returned on May 31.

Scientists were able to use data from remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that took underwater photos and videos for two hours on a daily basis. They also deployed equipment called the baited remote underwater video system (BRUVS). It explored deeper parts of the ocean and took five hours’ worth of footage, to determine fish diversity and biomass.

“Benham Bank holds tremendous potential for discovering more unique species and outstanding samples of marine resources. Based on the huge success of this expedition, and the inspiring collaboration among the partners, we foresee government and stakeholders working together to protect and sustainably manage this extraordinary natural heritage which is now part of our territory,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president for Oceana Philippines.