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Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

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Lophelia reefs discovered as important homes for sharks

A recent study by CMBB scientists has shown that Lophelia reefs have co-benefits for both sharks and humans.

Spawning grounds of the blackmouth catshark Galeus melastomus were discovered using seabed and video surveys on the Mingulay Reef Complex, a seascape of cold-water coral reefs off western Scotland. During two research expeditions involving the CMBB cold-water coral team, catshark eggs were discovered on the Lophelia reefs of Mingulay. When combined with seabed surveys conducted over two decades, shark abundance of G. melastomus, a species valued by the recreational sea angling industry, was found to be significantly higher nearer reef habitats.

Catshark

This case study demonstrates how a local coral vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) helps maintain key life stages of shark populations and provides socioeconomic benefits. Evidence for co-benefits between corals, sharks and humans provides a compelling case for identifying and protecting coral VMEs.

The findings demonstrated the importance of local cold-water coral reefs to shark populations and the potential socioeconomic benefits. This reinforces using an ecosystem approach to managing deep-sea fisheries that would protect coral VMEs, and supports the need for rigorous investigations into the global importance of cold-water coral habitats to sustaining early life stages of deepwater elasmobranchs. 

For more information, see the full article: Henry L-A, Moreno-Navas J, Hennige SJ, Wicks LC, Vad J, Roberts JM (2013) Cold-water coral reef habitats benefit recreationally valuable sharks. Biological Conservation 161:67-70

See this story featured on the BBC, STV and in the Scotsman