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Given the extent and great depth of much of the South Pacific Ocean, research into the biodiversity of the high seas of the South Pacific Ocean is still in its infancy. Like the diverse bathymetry however, biodiversity is also diverse. Fine, muddy sediments made up of a variety of foraminiferans (microscopic single celled, shelled, animals) dominate the deep ocean floor. Echinoderms (sea-urchins, sea-stars, brittle-stars, sea-cucumbers, and crinoids) dominate the abyssal depths (3000–6000 m). At shallower depths, the seamounts, banks, and ridges are dominated by bottom invertebrates such as lobsters and crabs, and fish living near the bottom, for example orange roughy and alfonsino. Above the sea there are a variety of seabirds that spend a substantial part of their life foraging in the marine environment of the South Pacific Ocean.
Knowledge of the distribution and extent of commercial fishing in the South Pacific Ocean high seas is limited. Exploratory and targeted commercial fishing is thought to have taken place in the area since at least the 1970s.
Commercial fisheries tend to have been concentrated in areas of higher productivity where there is upwelling of nutrients, often associated with seamounts and ridges. Seamounts and ridges are also the only places shallow enough to bottom fish. Although there are numerous seamount and ridge systems in the South Pacific high seas, only the prominent appear to have been fished to any extent: the Lord Howe Rise, the South Tasman Rise, and the Louisville Ridge. There are closely related fish species, and species in common, across all these features.
South Pacific high seas fisheries can be categorised into benthic (mainly invertebrate species that live on the seafloor), demersal (mainly fish, close to the seafloor), and pelagic (mainly fish and prawns, at the surface and in the midwater). Commercial fishing for benthic and demersal species is restricted to a depth of about 1500 m. Dominant demersal finfish fished commercially include orange roughy, oreos, alfonsino, and bluenose. Pelagic fishing takes place irrespective of depth, but tends to be associated with upwelling of nutrients. The dominant pelagic species fished commercially is jack mackerel.
Fishing methods currently used include purse seining, pelagic trawling, bottom trawling, pelagic longlining, bottom longlining and potting.