News

July 23, 2018

Irish scientists find deep sea coral reef in Atlantic Ocean around 300 miles off west coast of Ireland

News Source: Irish Mirror
Author: Niall O'Connor

Irish scientists have made a ground-breaking discovery of a deep sea coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

A research expedition by the Marine Institute uncovered the rare growth in previously unmapped Irish waters around 300 miles off the west coast.

Scientists located a type of black coral which may be an entirely new species and they believe their research has proven the deep waters are a haven for unique life forms.

David O’Sullivan, who led the SeaRover survey, said his team’s discovery will be critical
to understanding the Irish sea environment.

He added: “We are very pleased to discover what appear to be new coral species and a rare sponge reef – neither of which have been previously documented in Irish waters.

“These sensitive habitats are very important and this study is key to getting a better understanding of Ireland’s deep sea.

"Our key objective is to discover, protect and monitor Ireland’s rich offshore marine biodiversity so we can manage our marine resources effectively.

“Without a knowledge of what lives on our seabed we are at risk of never fully understanding and appreciating Ireland’s invaluable marine environment.”

While operating near the Rockhall Bank, the crew of the ILV Granuaile used a deep water robot submarine to find a sponge reef.

The “highly unusual” habitat is made up of living and dead organisms and is an oasis for several other unique life forms which have only ever been found in Canadian waters.

old water coral reefs are ecosystems that host a diverse range of animals including sea fans, sponges, worms, starfish, crustaceans and a variety of fish species, making them vitally
important habitats for marine biodiversity.

NUI Galway’s Prof Louise Allcock is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Marine Institute to study the pharmaceutical potential of deep sea corals and sponges.

She said: “This project highlights collaboration and co-operation between Irish and international marine scientists.

“It helps us to further our understanding of these sensitive ecosystems and has also been able to provide training opportunities and sea-going experience for young scientists.”

The SeaRover survey is the second of three planned expeditions jointly funded by the Government and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.