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What scientists say about the collecting of "dead" coral
from the ocean’s floor

“Clearing large areas of coral rubble would certainly impact reef ecosystems, not only because coral larvae settle on rubble (which is well-documented), but also because there are countless organisms that inhabit spaces within corals and rubble. Removing coral rubble from areas where the underlying sediment is unsuitable for larval settlement would certainly inhibit new corals from attaching and growing. I can't conceive that this practice would not negatively affect the long-term integrity of most coral reef ecosystems. There are other complexities, such as the removal of coral rubble that would change micro-flow patterns near the underlying substrate, in turn affecting the settling ability of coral larvae.”

John Clark Field, PhD Candidate
School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences
University of Washington.

“Bottom trawling, or dragging nets along the ocean floor to catch fish, is so devastating to the marine environment that the practice should be banned from fragile areas, according to a U.S. National Academy of Sciences report released yesterday. The report, which was requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service, recommended protecting areas along the Pacific Coast, the North Atlantic, the Gulf Coast, and the Alaskan coast, reducing trawling elsewhere, and requiring modifications to equipment to minimize damage. The recommendations were welcomed by environmentalists, some of whom compare bottom trawling to clear-cutting. A bipartisan group of Congress members plans to introduce legislation today to restrict bottom trawling.”

Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Subject: National Academy of Sciences report on Trawling
Source: Los Angeles Times, Kenneth R. Weiss.

This activity can harm the corals and the organisms that live in and on them in two ways. First, the dredging and vacuuming activity loosens and stirs up large amounts of sediment in the water. This sediment smothers and kills corals and other organisms in the ecosystem. An additional adverse effect of stirring up the sediment with dredging and vacuuming activities is that the turbidity of the water prevents light from reaching the corals, and the corals need light in order to survive and grow. Secondly, reefs are formed (and grow) by a process of bioaccretion (cementing together) of carbonate particles that have been removed from the living coral by bioerosion. If all the sediment that has accumulated around a reef (especially that which has already begun to solidify and hence does not risk smothering the reef) is scraped away, the reef loses its capability to grow and keep up with sea -level rise. Failure to grow and keep pace with sea-level rise would mean the demise of the reef because the corals need light and thus must be near the surface in order to live.

Dr. Marjorie L. Reaka-Kudla, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology
The University of Maryland.


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