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An assessment of the distribution of deep-sea corals in Atlantic Canada by using both scientific and local forms of knowledge

  • Susan E. Gass
  • J.H. Martin Willison
Part of the Erlangen Earth Conference Series book series (ERLANGEN)

Abstract

More than 27 species of deep-sea corals have been identified off Atlantic Canada but their distributions are largely unknown. Bottom trawling is recognized as a threat to deep-sea corals in Atlantic Canada but the degree of damage has not been quantified. It is difficult to assess the level of conservation required for these organisms without basic information about their distribution. This study attempts to improve our knowledge of the distribution of deep-sea corals in Atlantic Canada.

The study uses three sources of data to map the distribution of deep-sea corals in Atlantic Canada including the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) groundfish trawl surveys from 1999–2001, DFO fisheries observer records from 2000 and 2001, and local ecological knowledge of fishermen in northern Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The results reveal that deep-sea corals are widely distributed along the edge of the continental shelf from the Gulf of Maine to the Davis Strait. The study confirms the presence of eight species including: Acanella arbuscula, Acanthogorgia armata, Flabellum spp., Keratoisis ornata, Lophelia pertusa, Paragorgia arborea, Paramuricea spp. and Primnoa resedaeformis. Significant findings from the study include: documentation of an antipatharian, an order not previously recorded in Atlantic Canada; documentation of L. pertusa from the Stone Fence and reported locations from Jordan Basin and the Gully; and the extension of the known ranges of P. arborea, K. ornata, and Paramuricea spp. Relatively high abundances of P. resedaeformis and P. arborea are reported from the Northeast Channel off southwest Nova Scotia and east of Cape Chidley, Labrador. The highest coral species richness is found along the edge of the continental shelf between the Gully and the Laurentian Channel at the edge of the Scotian Shelf. Fishermen reported catching the largest specimens and highest numbers of corals from the Stone Fence and also identified the Gully as an area of high coral abundance. Several fishermen reported significant changes to the seafloor on the eastern Scotian Shelf and the Stone Fence over the duration of their fishing careers, including a decrease in the size and number of corals they caught.

Keywords

Deep-sea coral distribution Atlantic Canada local knowledge fishery impacts 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Resource and Environmental StudiesDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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