Researchers sample unusually rich deep-sea area off Hawaii

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HONOLULU Federal researchers have just returned from an expedition to study the biodiversity and mechanisms of an unusually rich deep-sea ecosystem off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that the abundance of sea life sampled in a particular stretch of water off the Big Island points to a thriving deep-sea habitat, but they aren't exactly sure why. The area, about a mile off the south shore of Hawaii Island, was full of fish including sawtooth eels, dragonfish and many other mysterious deep-sea creatures.

Much of the ocean surrounding Hawaii is among the least productive water in the Pacific, said the expedition's lead researcher, Jamison Gove, a NOAA oceanographer. However, the ocean just off the shores of Hawaii, and this location in particular, are rich in marine life, something critical for both fishing and tourism in the region, he said.