Trawlers Damage Deep-Water Corals
Coral reefs occupy shallow water in the tropics and have been compared to rainforests because of the abundance and variety of life they generate and support. Scientists have known about deep-water corals for over a hundred years but only recently with the arrival of deep sea submersibles have they discovered how large an area they occupy. Deep-water coral communities, or their remains if they have been trawled, are being discovered all around the world almost every time cameras are sent down into the deeper waters of the continental margins. They have been documented in northern latitudes in Alaskan waters, Norway, Ireland, and farther south off Florida and Hawaii. Pictures are also coming back up with documentation of destruction by bottom-bashing trawlers. At 1,500 years of age, these slow growing, deep-water corals are the oldest living animals on the planet. Perhaps it would be a good idea to cease their destruction at least until we know a bit more about them. We spoke with Michael Hirshfield about his work to protect deep-water corals.