, Volume 471, Issue 1-3, pp 101-110

Age, growth and radiometric age validation of a deep-sea, habitat-forming gorgonian (Primnoa resedaeformis) from the Gulf of Alaska

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Sustainable fisheries require (1) viable stock populations with appropriate harvest limits and (2) appropriate habitat for fish to survive, forage, seek refuge, grow and reproduce. Some deep-water habitats, such as those formed by deep-water stands of coral, may be vulnerable to fishing disturbance. The rate at which habitat can be restored is a critical aspect of fishery management. The purpose of this study was to characterize growth rates for a habitat-forming deep-sea coral. Two nearly complete colonies of red tree coral (Primnoa resedaeformis) collected from waters off southeast Alaska were used for an analysis of age and growth characteristics. CAT scans revealed that colonies consisted of multiple settlement events, where older basal structures provided for settlement of new colonies. The decay of 210Pb over the length of the colony was used to validate age estimates from growth ring counts. Age estimates were over 100 yr for sections near the heavily calcified base. Based on validated growth ring counts, growth of red tree coral ranged from 1.60 to 2.32 cm per year in height and was approximately 0.36 mm per year in diameter. These growth rates suggest that the fishery habitat created by red tree coral is extremely vulnerable to bottom fishing activities and may take over 100 years to recover.