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Why This Matters: Deep-sea corals live at depths up to 10,000 feet and protect a diverse array of marine life including shrimp, crab, and other fish caught and sold for consumption around the world. Without the protections afforded by the fan and feather-shaped corals, this sea life would become scarcer, not only harming ecosystems, but also fishing, trade, and the availability of seafood. Gib Brogan, a campaign manager for Oceana which has been fighting for these protections for 20 years, explains, “a single pass of a fishing net can wipe out a century or a thousand years of growth.” Some corals in the reefs date back to the 1400s; damage to these corals will not be repaired for many generations to come.
A Healing Process
The protections come at a crucial moment for the survival of these deep-sea habitats. The 2010 BP oil spill released damaging oil into the habitats, but subsequent research found that the clean-up efforts may have done even more damage to coral reefs. Dispersants used to remove oil from the waters, Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, have been found to cause more damage to corals than oil alone. Before the 2010 spill, the impacts of dispersants were unknown and untested on sea life, but marine scientist Dennise Ruiz-Ramos says the effects are now obvious, “you can see it visually in the disintegration of the corals.”
A New Frontier
Despite their importance to the ecosystem, science knows very little about deep-sea corals. Until recent developments in undersea research technology, researchers had little ability to examine or take samples of the corals. Now, research is learning much more about this crucial deep-sea life. Some sponges living among deep-sea corals were found to have anti-viral and cancer-fighting properties, lending hope to new medical developments. Experts are still finding deep-sea coral habitats to explore and protect, and expect to find many more; only 0.05 percent of the seafloor has been mapped.
UNESCO has launched a new program to collect, analyze, and monitor environmental DNA (AKA eDNA) to better understand biodiversity at its marine World Heritage sites. Scientists will collect genetic material from fish cells, mucus, and waste across multiple locations along with eDNA from soil, water, and air. The two-year project will help experts assess […]
It’s about time we had a conversation about the birds and the bees…or in this case, the otters and the seagrass. A new study found that the ecological relationship between sea otters and the seagrass fields where they make their home is spurring the rapid reproduction of the plants. Otters dig up about 5% of […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating rapidly, and experts say that a hull breach could have far-reaching environmental impacts and threaten millions of people’s access to food and water supplies. The FSO SAFER tanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil — more than four […]
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