A water war over control of Davidson Seamount -- an underwater volcano off the coast of Big Sur -- is pitting environmental and oil interests against each other. Davidson Seamount is about 75 miles from Monterey and is the size of Mount Shasta.
A water war over control of Davidson Seamount -- an underwater volcano off the coast of Big Sur -- is pitting environmental and oil interests against each other. Davidson Seamount is about 75 miles from Monterey and is the size of Mount Shasta. It's teeming with sea life that scientists have never seen before, so the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to protect it. At the same time, the U.S. Department of the Interior wants to protect the site for possible oil and gas exploration. Scientists said some of the creatures on Davidson Seamount are hundreds of years old.
"It's a huge, ancient volcano about as big as the Monterey Bay -- 26 miles long -- and it's just covered with corals and sponges and sea life you couldn't even dream about," said Andrew DeVogelaere of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary wants to protect Davidson Seamount for research and education, but the area may also be rich in fossil fuels.
"Davidson is just this incredibly special place and Big Sur above it is a spectacular place ... so the idea of having offshore oil and gas development off the coast of Big Sur is kind of a shocker," said Steve Shimek, of The Otter Project. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Group launched an expedition to Davidson Seamount a year ago and barely scratched the surface of a rich source of sea life.
"We know that the kinds of animals that live on these seamounts are very long-lived, very slow-growing animals, which means that any significant disturbance might take decades or centuries to repair itself. So I think that we need to proceed with caution," Monterey Bay Aquarium's Randy Kochevar said. Davidson Seamount will move front and center in the public debate when the marine sanctuary releases its action plan this summer. There are 30,000 seamounts along the Pacific coast. Less than 1 percent have been explored.