For decades, overfishing and trawling had been devastating parts of an underwater mountain range in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, wrecking deep-sea corals and destroying much of their ecological community.
But now, after years of federally mandated protection, scientists see signs that this once ecologically fertile area known as the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain is making a comeback.
Because of the slow-growing nature of the corals and sponges that live on seamounts, “It’s been hypothesized that these areas, if they’ve been trawled, that there’s not much hope for them,” said Florida State University Associate Professor of Oceanography Amy Baco-Taylor.
“So, we explored these sites fully expecting to not find any sign of recovery. But we were surprised to find evidence that some species are starting to come back to these areas.”
“This is a good story of how long-term protection allows for recovery of vulnerable species,” she added.
Baco-Taylor and a team from Florida State and Texas A&M University published their findings this week in the journal Science Advances