Until relatively recently, scientists studied the deep-sea floor by dredging and trawling to bring samples back to the surface. This was difficult work that damaged the seabed, animals living on the seabed, and the fauna in the samples themselves. Dredging is still used today, but in conjunction with new technology, sample collection can be targeted, reducing collateral damage.
The science of the deep has changed dramatically. Advanced acoustic mapping allows scientists to map large areas of seabed and then use video surveys or submersibles to examine the ecosystems on the seafloor.
These technologies have revealed spectacular cold-water coral ecosystems around the world. However as new coral habitats are discovered, the surveys often show that reefs have been physically damaged, most often by bottom trawling. In a recent study, Norwegian researchers estimated that up to half of Norway’s cold-water coral reefs were already damaged by bottom trawling.