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Deep-Sea Corals

Coral reefs are spectacular, diverse ecosystems that are home to thousands of different species. While less well-known than tropical coral reefs, the majority of coral species actually grow in the dark, cold waters of the deep sea.

These corals, referred to as ‘deep-sea’ or ‘cold-water’ corals, from complex skeletal structures that provide shelter for vast numbers of associated fish and invertebrates in the otherwise sparsely populated deep sea. Deep-sea coral reefs can take tens of thousands of years to grow, and many deep-sea corals can live for centuries. The longevity and slow growth rate of these corals make these vital habitats extremely slow to recover from disturbance.

Despite their remoteness, deep-sea corals are already incurring significant damage from human activities. For example, bottom trawl fisheries often target deep reefs because they are the preferred habitat for a large number of commercially valuable species. Deep-sea corals’ skeletons are fragile and therefore highly vulnerable to physical damage from bottom trawl fishing gear.  Like many other marine organisms, deep-sea corals are also sensitive to pollution, sedimentation, and the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, restoring damaged deep-sea environments is not feasible, making preemptive conservation activities critical for preserving these vulnerable and ecologically vital habitats. If destroyed, most deep-sea coral habitats will not recover within our lifetime.

Marine Conservation Institute is committed to protecting deep-sea coral ecosystems around the world. We conduct field research and modeling analyses to provide a scientific rationale for the improved protection of deep-sea coral habitats. In addition, we advocate for the end or mitigation of destructive fishing practices, climate change, and other human disturbances to these fragile ecosystems.

Join us in protecting vulnerable species around the world. Please visit our Take Action page or Donate to make our oceans healthier for us and future generations.