Photo Archive of In Situ Benthic Imagery from the Gully Marine Protected Area
The Gully is located approximately 200 kilometres off Nova Scotia, Canada to the east of Sable Island where it incises the edge of the Scotian Shelf. Over 65 km long and 15 km wide, the Gully is the largest underwater canyon in the western North Atlantic. In May, 2004 Canada created a marine protected area (MPA) of 2,363 km2 with four conservation objectives: 1. Minimize harmful impacts from human activities on cetacean populations and their habitats; 2. Minimize the disturbance of seafloor habitat and associated benthic communities caused by human activities; 3. Maintain and monitor the quality of water and sediments of the Gully; and 4. Manage human activities to minimize impacts on other commercial and non-commercial living resources. The Gully ecosystem encompasses shallow sandy banks, a deep-water canyon environment, and portions of the continental slope and abyssal plain, providing habitat for a wide diversity of species. The Gully’s size, shape, and location have an effect on currents and local circulation patterns, concentrating nutrients and small organisms within the canyon. The Gully is home to the endangered Scotian Shelf population of Northern bottlenose whales and is an important habitat for 15 other species of whales and dolphins. Tiny plankton, a variety of fish such as sharks, tunas and swordfish, and seabirds inhabit surface waters, while halibut, skates, cusk and lanternfish can be found as deep as one kilometre. The ocean floor supports crabs, sea pens, anemones, brittle stars, and approximately 30 species of cold-water corals. Fisheries and Oceans, Canada has collected benthic imagery from the Gully environs from the late 1990s, before the creation of the MPA. Benthic imagery has been collected opportunistically from 1997 to the present on a number of research missions led by the Department. As part of a data rescue mission to preserve such data associated with the Gully MPA and surrounds, we have compiled all of the imagery data held by the research team led by Dr. Ellen Kenchington at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. These constitute video and still images from 9 research missions conducted by DFO, with links to data collected by NOAA Okeanos Explorer EX1905L2 in 2019 in a jointly planned expedition. In 2023 Dalhousie University conducted benthic imagery work in the Gully MPA (Dr. Owen Sherwood, PI), but those data are not included in this submission. Here we provide PDF maps of each cruise, provide the metadata for 143 operations which produced 101 hours of video and 3554 photos. None of these images have been edited and we provide the complete collection series recognizing that some of the photos and video may not be suitable for analyses. We are currently investigating whether video collected from 1997 to 2000 can be rescued and digitized. If successful those video will be published at a later date.