The deep-sea environment is an area that has previously been thought of as a barren landscape, containing few life forms, is now being recognised to be the habitat for as many as 10 million species, some of which form coral reefs and forests that are not dissimilar to the trademark coral reefs of the shallows. Sadly however, the only people who are accessing these deep-sea paradises are those on the bottom trawlers carrying heavy nets, chains and rollers that indiscriminately crush everything in their path. The good news is that 1,136 scientists from 69 countries have united to form the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, which is calling for a short-term moratorium on deep-sea bottom trawling in deep seas. This suspension of activity will provide these vulnerable ecosystems immediate protection whilst an effective, legally binding management strategy can be employed.
Recent reports have demonstrated that technological advancement can also be put to positive effect. Scientists have used high-tech electronic tags on whale sharks, which have shown that the sharks are diving to incredible depths of just under 1km in the search for food – much deeper than previously estimated. This tagging system can be used by tourist companies, alongside scientists, who can use the information of the sharks whereabouts for boat tours. The whale shark is sadly another species hunted for its fins and is now listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN, the World Conservation Union, Red List of threatened species. However, through the inclusion of the tourist industry, which has a vested interest in maintaining shark populations to generate much needed revenue, further pressure can be placed protecting this species.