Divers have found deep-water reefs (up to 500 feet) thriving off the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico, in a area where shallow-growing corals are struggling.

The deep underwater landscape they encountered was populated by lettuce coral, the lace-like star coral and several species of sponges, as well as groupers, snappers and reef sharks, said [University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez Professor Richard] Appledoorn, who is calling for the protection of the reefs and nearby shallower areas where fish spawn and later retreat to deeper waters.

Why is this good news? Because if pressures let up on shallower corals (runoff pollution from beach development, dredging, oil spills, etc.), then fish and coral from the deeper area may be able to recolonize the shallower waters and improve the health of those reefs.

The discovery—first announced by NOAA last week [in early January]—comes as officials in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands seek to create the Caribbean Regional Ocean Partnership, an endeavor that aims to better coordinate the use of coastal waters and the implementation of conservation programs.

Source: “Puerto Rico Aims to Protect Newly Discovered Reefs,” Danico Coto, Associated Press, January 13, 2011

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