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Coral reefs off Ireland and Scotland being “bulldozed” by deepwater trawling

05.09.2005


Spectacular coral reefs are usually associated with warm tropical climates but can be found in the cold, inky depths off Ireland and the UK. The expansion of deep-water trawling is causing widespread damage to these long-lived corals which can take over 4,500 years to build up.



Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biologist from the University of Plymouth, has been studying these cold water coral habitats and will be revealing previously-unseen footage from recent international expeditions at the BA Festival of Science in Dublin on 5 September. The footage includes spectacular images of the curious organisms that live amongst the corals at a depth of 1 km off the west coast of Ireland. The deep-water film also shows compelling evidence of coral reef damage.

‘Few people realise that we have such interesting, precious and dramatic habitats right on our doorstep,’ says Dr Hall-Spencer. ‘Some of these areas have yet to be explored, but even before we have had chance to see their treasures, they are being bulldozed by deep-water trawling. It is crucial that we take steps to protect the coral reefs before it is too late.’


There is now an international push to protect vulnerable deep-water habitats from trawling and in March 2004 Europe’s first deep-water conservation area was designated in a coral-rich province first discovered off Scotland in 1998. Sadly there remains no protection for Ireland’s reef areas. Dr Hall-Spencer is currently exploring new technologies which could help prevent further damage to the coral reefs, such as satellite tracking to help manage the activities of offshore fleets.

Dr Hall-Spencer’s talk, “Ireland’s Hidden Depths”, is one of the BA Award Lectures to be presented at this year’s BA Festival of Science. The talk will be webcast live at www.cusp.org.uk/festival at 12.45pm on Monday 5 September.

The BA Festival of Science will take place in Dublin from 3-10 September, bringing over 300 of the UK and Ireland’s top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest developments in science with the public. In addition to talks and debates at Trinity College Dublin, there will be a host of events throughout the city as part of the Science in the City programme. For further information on the BA Festival of Science, visit www.the-ba.net/festivalofscience.

The main sponsors of the BA Festival of Science are Trinity College Dublin, Discover Science and Engineering and the Department of Education and Science. Dr Hall-Spencer’s research is sponsored The Royal Society and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Craig Brierley | alfa
Further information:
http://www.the-ba.net
http://www.cusp.org.uk/festival

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