Researchers set sail from North Vancouver yesterday for a two-week expedition to study deep-sea corals in the hopes their findings will protect the organisms from harmful fishing practices.

The Finding Coral Expedition — which happened to launch on World Oceans Day — will search six locations along the Pacific Coast using single-person submarines capable of diving to depths of 650 metres.

Scientists will pilot the subs and gather information critical to better understanding the role deep-sea corals play in our ocean’s ecosystem.

Thomas Shirley, a member of the Finding Coral research team, said deep-sea corals provide habitat for fish, crabs, shrimp and many other species.

Some fishing practices like bottom trawling destroy the corals, and by extension the delicate ecosystem needed to sustain commercial fish stocks.

“We expect to find similar results (in this study), and if so, these corals need to be protected to support a healthy ocean ecosystem,” Shirley said.

Jennifer Lash, leader of the Finding Coral Expedition, said Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California already protect their deep-sea corals.

“We want to see the same care given to the corals in British Columbia,” she said.

“We will be diving in places where nobody has been before and possibly seeing species never seen before. This is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the deep ocean ecosystem and the creatures that live there.”

Most Popular From ...