Deep-sea corals and sponges form complex structures that provide shelter and food for vast numbers of other invertebrates and fish. Deep reefs take tens of thousands of years to grow, and some tree corals can live for centuries. These ancient ecosystems are fragile, however, and are easily destroyed by heavy bottom trawls in search of long lived deep sea fish.
Our commitment to protecting coral and sponge ecosystems includes ensuring destructive fishing practices are stopped on sensitive deep-sea coral reefs and that these habitats are protected from future human activities through a combination of rigorous science and expert advocacy. We work closely with academic researchers to stay informed of new discoveries and incorporate the best data into creating predictive models for deep coral habitats.
Since we cannot explore the entire deep ocean, these models help us understand where deep coral reefs can be found. We can use this information to identify candidate sites for new marine protected areas and work with management agencies to stop damaging fishing practices in sensitive areas. We are currently working toward completing predictive mapping of deep sea corals in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and continue to advocate for protection of coral and sponge habitats. We also interact closely with NOAAs Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program to ensure that the program is adequately funded and provides crucial information to support management needs and increased deep coral protection.