Many parts of the ocean remain largely unknown to scientists. The deeper the water, the more difficult and costly it is to study the ecosystems there. Sometimes it is only exploration by commercial interests that sheds much light on the deep ocean, as the petroleum and fishing sectors plumb ever-greater depths with advanced drilling and fishing gear.
Such has been the case for deepwater corals. Although naturalists have known since the 1800s that some corals live in deep, cold water, researchers are only beginning to appreciate the scale of their reef communities, and their potential ecological significance to fish and biodiversity. As the petroleum and fishing industries increasingly encounter these reef communities off the coasts of Europe and elsewhere, resource managers are starting to consider necessary protection. This month, MPA News examines the current state of knowledge on deepwater corals, and the various efforts to protect them.