New Study Highlights Urgent Need to Safeguard Deep Reefs -- one of the Largest and Least Protected Ecosystems
Published:18 Dec.2022    Source:ScienceDaily
Based on a new study, recently published in the journal Conservation Letters, is confirms for the first time that deep reef habitats, notably in the WIO, are largely unprotected despite being under threat from a multitude of stressors, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and, in the near future, seabed mining. Deep reefs (found below 30 m) provide essential ecosystem services for climate change resilience, ocean health, and food security whilst also acting as a refugia for organisms threatened in shallow water, including commercially important species. Despite this, deep reefs are barely protected, even though they have a larger geographic footprint than their shallower counterparts. Furthermore, the scarcity of fish in shallow waters combined with modern deep sea fishing technologies is resulting in deep reefs being increasingly exploited by coastal communities who need fish for their food security.
We strongly encourage deep reefs to be included in conservation and sustainable management action to complement global targets, notably 30% protection of the global ocean by 2030. Deep reefs are critical to a healthy marine ecosystem and face similar threats from overfishing, pollution and climate change faced by the much-imperilled shallow reef system. Covering over 8% of the global ocean, the Western Indian Ocean is one of the least known, least protected, and most threatened marine regions of our planet. Shallow and deep coral reefs of the WIO are marine biodiversity hotspots with high numbers of species that are found nowhere else on Earth. They are essential to the region's 100 million people living within 100km of the coastline, including over three million people who are directly dependent on artisanal fishing for their livelihoods. The population is projected to double over the next 30 years, driving greater stressors on the ocean's biological capacity to support lives and livelihoods.