Deep-Sea Canyons Need Protection, Says NRDC

Blufin Tuna/NOAA

An article on the National Resources Defense Council is calling for increased protection for the unique ecosystems of the East Coast canyons, which are found along the edge of the continental shelf anywhere from 80 to 150 miles offshore.

According to the NRDC, the canyons and the marine life they support—including many species of big-game fish such as tuna and marlin—are threatened by offshore seismic drilling, mining and bottom trawl commercial fishing, all of which can disrupt and damage the offshore ecosystem.

Here’s an excerpt:

Canyon Map courtesy of the Nature Conservancy.

Cut into the continental shelf off the Atlantic coast of the United States is a series of undersea canyons, starting just north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and running up past Cape Cod. The canyons plummet down thousands of feet over clay and stone cliffs before reaching the deep ocean bottom. Off the northern end of the canyons’ range, four massive seamounts rise off the ocean floor, part of a chain of extinct drowned volcanoes that stretches down to Bermuda.

Teeming with an astonishing variety and abundance of marine life, these canyons and seamounts are ocean oases. Their hard foundations make possible their most vibrant and vulnerable feature: a living seafloor of deep-sea corals, rare sponges, and vivid anemones. Even as such deep sea coral ecosystems dwindle around the world, here there are tree-like Lophelia corals, gorgonian corals the color of bubblegum, and stony corals that have been growing for hundreds of years.

Read more:

National Resources Defense Council: Canyons

Video: Ocean Oasis


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