Photo: Bottom feeders

Most of the biodiversity of our oceans is found on the sea floor. (Credit: Asha Wareham)

Welcome to the bottom feeders page of the 'I Am Fish' tour. These three guiding words, I am fish, appear simple. But they reflect an ancient and extraordinary web of biological activity that connects humans with the ocean.

I am bottom feeder

Not all of the microscopic plants get eaten by zooplankton. Many of them die and settle to the bottom of the seafloor, where they are eaten by bottom-dwelling animals such as worms, snails, clams, crabs and seastars. These animals are the ocean's recyclers and cleaners, converting dead and decomposing material back into life. Many of the familiar and valuable seafood species harvested from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA), such as halibut, sole, crab and sablefish, are reliant on these ocean recyclers as a food source.

Aside from the recycling component, the bottom dweller's food web also supports animals such as sponges and corals that form important habitat structures for many species.

Why are bottom feeders important to humans?

Biodiversity is a cornerstone of the evolutionary processes that formed our planet as we know it. The seafloor, while out of sight and mind, is where most of the biodiversity of our oceans is found. Modern-day humans have only recently benefited from the ecosystem services of the seafloor in the form of our commercial fisheries. While we may never dine on most of the species occupying the seafloor, we must cherish them and the complex ecosystem they live in for their biological diversity and ecosystem values.

What can we do to protect them?

The complicated seafloor food web is poorly understood and as such, not properly managed. Bottom trawling remains the single largest threat to seafloor habitats in PNCIMA. Until we have properly protected the seafloor habitats of PNCIMA through a proper zoning process that ensures sensitive areas are not impacted, we need to support fisheries that inflict the least amount of impact on the seafloor.

> Next destination: Sponge reefs
> Previous destination: Kelp forests and seagrasses

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