Marine scientists set off on an expedition today to research life around five underwater mountains in the Indian Ocean. Called seamounts, the 1,000 foot mountains are teeming with biological diversity but are not thoroughly understood. Now the scientists, on a mission led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are looking to learn more about the deep sea environments, in an effort to save them.
The IUCN fears that deep sea fishing practices such as bottom trawling (so destructive, you can see its effects from space) pose a major threat to seamount ecosystems, which include cold water corals and sponges as well as various fish species. However, if those ecosystems and the damage done to them by overfishing are better understood, it will be easier and more effective to implement protocols for managed fishing.
Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford and chief scientist on board said:
Based on what we learn by studying five seamounts in the southwest Indian Ridge, we’re hoping to get a better idea of where special habitats, such as cold water coral reefs, occur on seamounts and how we can protect them in the ocean globally.
A 2009 research expedition in the area turned up a new species of squid, and the marine scientists on board the RRS James Cook are hopeful that they may, too, discover a new species, as well as save some known ones.
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