Study areas

The CoralFISH study areas have been carefully selected to represent several major eco-regions (biogeographical provinces). They are widely dispersed around Europe, include some ultra-peripheral areas, and can be expected to yield a broad picture of the ways in which fish interact with corals in European waters. Three sites have also been selected for high-resolution lander studies (map). A summary of our current knowledge about each area is given below.

map of study areas

Region 1: Northern Norway – eastern Norwegian Sea

  • Wide range of benthic habitats and environmental conditions: fjords, open coast, continental shelf, shelf break and deep ocean floor. Substrates vary from bedrock near the coast and in the fjords, to morainic and soft clay deposits on the shelf, to gravel and sand near the shelf break.
  • Lophelia pertusa forms thousands of large and well developed CWC reefs in the mid Norwegian shelf, but many reefs in the area have been damaged by bottom trawling. As a result, three offshore coral reefs have been designated MPAs.
  • Fisheries include all-year or seasonal trawling, long-lining and gillnetting, the latter two targeting coral reefs for redfish (Sebastes spp.), tusk (Brosme brosme), and ling (Molva molva).

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Region 2: Iceland

  • CWC (predominantly Lophelia pertusa) are mainly confined to the Reykjanes Ridge and near the shelf break off the South Iceland coast, mostly within 500-600m water depth. Unimpacted grounds are likely to be found in slide scars, steep slopes off S Iceland, and on lava seabeds (e.g. Reykjanes Ridge) where trawling is difficult.
  • ROV surveys in 2004 indicated widespread damage to corals on the outer continental shelf, but undamaged colonies on the continental slope.
  • Preliminary findings have shown that areas closed to fishing had more abundant habitat-forming species, especially sponges.
  • Three MPAs have been designated to date; it is likely more will be created if there are future discoveries of unimpacted CWC.

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Region 3: Porcupine Seabight / Rockall Trough

  • This area comprises mounds of varying sizes – from large mounds up to 380m high and several km’s length.
  • Coral occurrence varies between areas, from dense coverage on summits, open coverage on summits, to coverage on flanks only.
  • The hydrology around these mounds is quite well studied.
  • Commercial fisheries in the region exploit blue ling, anglerfish, red crab, orange roughy, and hake.
  • Some of the area has already been closed to fishing to protect orange roughy, other parts are candidates for designation as Special Areas of Conservation to protect the corals.

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Region 4: Bay of Biscay

  • Lophelia pertusa has been randomly sampled in flat areas of the Bay of Biscay, such as on the summit of banks or in interfluves between the deep canyons that dissect the margin, however the distribution of corals is poorly known.
  • The Bay of Biscay is not subjected to typical deepwater fishing because catch rates are small, but in recent years there have been more significant catches of orange roughy, possibly from the interfluves between canyons.
  • There are no MPAs on the Bay of Biscay’s outer shelf or upper slope, but several areas are being considered as possible candidates: CoralFISH results will help to define these.

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Region 5: The Azores

  • A geologically complex area where the seafloor is generally deep, but shallower depths are encountered near the several seamounts and part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which are also in the region.
  • Approximately 110 coral species have been identified, but knowledge of their distribution is limited. The Condor seamount hosts large and dense Gorgonian colonies; their distribution shows substrate associations.
  • Fishing in the Azores is mainly semi-industrial and artisanal, with the emphasis on traditional techniques. The seabed fauna in the area, therefore, is relatively unaffected by the intensive trawling prevalent in other parts of the EU.
  • Seven small coastal areas were designated MPAs in 1980. After Natura 2000, another 17 sites have been proposed as MPAs, and management plans have been created for most of them. The Azores also protects two deepwater hydrothermal vents, and are creating a MPA in the Sedlo oceanic seamount. EC Council Regulation (No. 1568/2005) bans deep water trawling from a significant area of the Azores EEZ.

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Region 6: Mediterranean: Ionian Sea

  • The Ionian sea is the largest in volume and the deepest sea of the Mediterranean.
  • Two sites have been selected, both on the shelf slopes leading off into deep waters: one in the N. Ionian Sea off Italy, the other in the E. Ionian sea off the Greek islands of Kephalonia and Zakynthos.
  • This tectonically active area sees sedimentation characterised by mass gravity-driven flows, often triggered by earthquakes.
  • CWC occur in mounds in the N. Ionian Sea site, the presence of CWC reefs in the E. Ionian Sea is unknown.
  • The N. Ionian Sea is exploited by large and small trawlers, and by long-liners to 800m, while the E. Ionian Sea is almost unexploited.
  • No MPAs exist in either area at present, although the N. Ionian Sea is protected by being categorised as a ‘Deep-sea fisheries restricted area’.

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map of lander sites


Latest News
EU Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn launches €8 billion FP7 research call. More here.
CoralFISH will have a display at the European Commission's 'Research in Action' exhibition in Dublin, July 9th-20th, showcasing EU-funded Research in Ireland.
CoralFISH will be involved in the Volvo Ocean Race Grand Finale in Galway June 30th - July 8th. More information available here
Registration and abstract submission for the joint CoralFISH/Deepfishman conference in August "The scientific basis for ecosystem based resource management and monitoring in the deep-waters of the Mediterranean & North Atlantic" is open here.
Issue 6 (March 2012) of the CoralFISH newsletter is now available here.
Issue 5 (October 2011) of the CoralFISH newsletter is now available here.
CoralFISH researchers were at sea in Autumn 2011 on the Pourquoi Pas? Their cruise blog is a good read, even now they're back on land.
NIOZ are organising the 5th International Deepsea Coral Symposium, to be held in Spring 2012. (More)
A workshop on coral identification will be held as part of the syposium and registration is now open (More).
CoralFISH researchers were involved in the "International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts" earlier this year. The summary report from the workshop is now available here.
BBC website features work by CoralFISH's Chris Yesson and Alex Rogers on global seamounts.
Issue 4 (February 2011) of the CoralFISH newsletter is now available here.
Some recent work by CoralFISH researcher Andre Freiwald & his team features in the latest edition of Ireland's Science Spin magazine p3. (More)
CoralFISH partners ZSL hosted a symposium "Marine Protected Areas on the high seas" in Feb 2011 (more)
Issue 3 of the CoralFISH newsletter is now available here.
CoralFISH were represented at EurOCEAN 2010 (Ostend, 12-13 October 2010). (more)
The World Conference on Marine Biodiversity was hosted by CoralFISH partners, the University of Aberdeen, Sept 2011.
Issue 2 of the CoralFISH Newsletter is available to download now from here
CoralFISH team in the Azores get ready to sail (More)
SEAMBOR report released. (Marine Board-ESF Position Paper 14) (More)
CoralFISH scientists will be aboard an ECOMAR cruise departing St John's in Canada on 26th May. Follow their cruise here
CoNISMa are running a course in meta-analysis in ecology in December. More info.
A joint ESF/ICES/EFARO foresight report entitled: "Science dimensions of Ecosystem Approach to Management of Biotic Ocean Resources" will be published shortly.(more)
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