June 18, 2018, 12:48 pm

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Atlantic Ocean

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), in collaboration with university, NGO and industry partners, began collecting information on the cold-water corals from waters off Atlantic Canada in 1997, alongside local knowledge provided by fishing communities going back centuries. Many coral species were identified from these waters, including the framework-forming scleractinians Lophelia pertusa and solitary species such as Flabellum spp. and Desmophyllum dianthus. But perhaps the most distinguishing feature fauna of this region are the lush communities of soft corals such as the gorgonians Paragorgia arborea, Primnoa resedaeformis, Paramuricea grandis and long-lived bamboo corals such as Keratoisis ornata. Atlantic cold-water corals are particularly abundant and rich in deep basins and gullies off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland including the Gully, the Northeast Channel, Laurentian Channel and off the Grand Banks. Similar to the Lophelia pertusa carbonate mounds of the bathyal NE Atlantic, cold-water corals in the NW Atlantic are often associated with hard substrata created by glacial deposits and erosional unconformities. A video link provided by DFO can be viewed here to fully appreciate these habitats in Atlantic Canada .

Beginning in 2003, alongside other government departments, the fishing industry, and other oceans-related stakeholder interest groups, DFO began drafting a “Coral Conservation Plan” for the Maritime Region (Canadian EEZ waters off New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) to document research activities and to direct conservation, management, and future study. The Plan was completed in 2006 and identified areas of the highest priority for research and management. Currently there are conservation measures for several areas in the Maritimes DFO jurisdiction: a coral conservation zone in the Northeast Channel (SW Nova Scotia), with 90% of the 424 km2 area closed to all forms of bottom fishing; a 15 km2 Lophelia coral conservation zone located in the Stone Fence area of the Laurentian Channel; and the Gully MPA, a 2364 km2 area inhabited by rich communities and diverse habitat types, with restricted (but not prohibited) human activities. Although no marine protected areas are currently in place for corals living off Newfoundland and Labrador, conservation measures are in place to protect the larger habitat-forming gorgonian “forests” and the regional fishing community has proposed a voluntary closure off the Hudson Strait.