Scotland's coral reef finally saved

Posted on 23 March 2004

After three-and-a-half years of campaigning for the legal protection of the Darwin Mounds, WWF welcomes the actions of the EU to ban deep-water bottom trawling in the area.
Aberfeldy, Scotland - EU Fisheries Ministers in Brussels yesterday finally agreed to give permanent protection to Scotland's unique cold-water coral reefs, the Darwin mounds. After three-and-a-half years of campaigning for the legal protection of the Darwin Mounds, WWF-Scotland welcomes the actions of the EU to ban deep-water bottom trawling in the area, the final delivery of a promise by the UK government in October 2001.
 
"We welcome the protection of this incredible piece of Scottish marine life —a beautiful deep-water habitat rich in wildlife such as sponges, starfish, and deepwater fish. This is our equivalent of the Great Barrier Reef and it was vital that it was protected before it was destroyed forever by deep water trawling," said Helen McLachlan, Marine Policy Officer at WWF-Scotland.
 
Only discovered in 1998, the Darwin Mounds are a unique collection of cold-water coral mounds (Lophelia pertusa) at a depth of 1000 metres and about 185km northwest of Scotland. They are made up of hundreds of coral reefs up to 5m high and 100m wide covering an area of approximately 100km2.

The reefs support a wide diversity of marine life, such as sponges, starfish, sea urchins, crabs, and deep-sea fish including the blue ling, round-nosed grenadier, and orange roughy. Since their discovery, WWF and others have highlighted the damaging impacts that deep-water trawlers were having on the corals, with huge areas of the seabed being dredged and scarred.
 
"Thankfully these ancient and fragile coral mounds, which have taken thousands of years to grow, have been saved from further destruction with the banning of deep-water trawling. We welcome this decision as the first real commitment by EU member states to reduce the impacts that fisheries have on our marine environment," said McLachlan. 
  
For further information: 
Jules Weston
Communications Officer, WWF-Scotland
Tel: +44 1887 820449
E-mail: jweston@wwfscotland.org.uk
Cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa and sea fan Paragorgia arborea.
© WWF / Erling Svensen