Esperanza explores little-known coral reef

Feature story - 18 May, 2005
We've set sail with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to explore one of the oldest and least understood habitats on Earth. Using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) - small, unmanned submarines - scientists onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza will study, sample and document the fascinating underwater world off the coast of Scotland.

SAMS Scientist Lyndsey Dodds with live coral sample from Mingulay Reef complex, Inner Hebrides Islands, UK.

The expedition to the Mingulay reef, located in around 150m of wateroff the west coast of Scotland, will provide vital scientific data onone of the biggest cold-water coral reef complexes so far discovered inUK waters.  

During the expedition, which set off from Greenock, near Glasgow, on 12May, scientists will also be looking for any evidence of damage to thereef. Although the extent of any damage to the Mingulay reef iscurrently unknown, coral habitats around the world face many threats -particularly from destructive fishing practices such as bottomtrawling.

Bottom trawlers drag heavily weighted fishing nets across the seabed -effectively steamrolling the ocean floor and smashing everything in theway.

Bottom trawling is the number one threat to fragile cold-water coralstructures, which provide habitats for a diverse range of speciesincluding fish, sponges, starfish, sea urchins and crustaceans. Lophelia reefs also serve as important fish spawning and nurserygrounds. It takes one year for Lophelia to grow 2.5cm. It takes justone typical fishing trip for a bottom trawler to sweep approximately 33square kilometres of the seabed.

We are calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling to protect ocean life.

More info

Meet the team and join the expedition through the Esperanza weblog.


Watch the computer-generated video and "fly" over the reef

=""=""> ROV feature - explore the reef and see what the ROV has found so far!

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