The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), university, NGO and industry scientists began collecting information on the cold-water corals from waters off Atlantic Canada in the 1990s. Today, over 30 coral species have been identified from this region, including the framework-forming scleractinian Lophelia pertusa. The most distinguishing feature fauna of this region are the dense stands of soft corals such as Paragorgia arborea, Primnoa resedaeformis, Paramuricea grandis and Keratoisis ornata and of sea pens such as Pennatula borealis. Some of the largest concentrations of sea pens reported thus far are found in the Laurentian Channel.
Corals are particularly abundant in deep basins and gullies in waters off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland including the Gully, the Northeast Channel, Laurentian Channel and off the Grand Banks. A Government of Canada Technical Report was recently published describing the distribution of corals in the Maritime Provinces, particularily in regards to conservation areas (Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area, The Gully Marine Protected Area, and the Stone Fence Lophelia Conservation Area). In 2010, a comprehensive assessment of coral and sponge distribution in eastern Canada from Davis Strait in the north to Georges Bank in the south was published using data collected from the ecosystem or multispecies trawl surveys within Canada’s exclusive economic zone. Maps in these and other reports (including ICES Working Group on Deepwater Ecology -WGDEC) were produced using data held in a MS Access database referred to as the Matitimes Region Coral and Sponge Repository. This database is continually updated as new information becomes available.
We thank Dr. Ellen Kenchington and Mr. Andrew Cogswell at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada for text and images