Many news outlets, including CNN, have reported on how coral reefs around the globe seem to be rapidly dying off, but here is something that might come as a nice relief.
Researchers just discovered what they’re calling an “unbelievable” area of coral reef about 160 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina that’s about 85 miles long. Overall, the reefs are about the length of Delaware and about half a mile under the surface of the water.
The Independent reports that it had been suspected for a while that the area might have been covered in coral. But when divers investigated earlier this week, they found “mountains of it.” The corals are also much older than scientists originally thought.
Researcher Erik Cordes said, “We couldn’t find a place that didn’t have corals. This is a huge feature. It’s incredible that it stayed hidden off the US East Coast for so long.”
The coral reef was mostly made of Lophelia, which is one of the most common corals in the deep sea, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These types of reefs have been found in the ocean near Florida and North Carolina, but according to Coastal Living, researchers didn’t expect to find them here, so deep under the surface and so far from shore.
The discovery was part of a 15-day expedition to collect data about deep-water habitats in the US Mid and South Atlantic. The project, called Deep Search, was funded by NOAA, the US Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
This discovery comes as President Trump proposes the expansion of offshore drilling. The plan would expand drilling in the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific oceans. If implemented, the plan would make about 90 percent of the waters off the United States coastline available for oil exploration.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the Trump administration had found the largest number of sales ever proposed for the nation’s offshore leasing program. He also said the plan would “strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people, while still powering America and achieving American energy dominance.”
While announcing the Deep Search project last year, BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank stated the project had been planned since before President Trump took office but he also pointed out that it could also still be used to influence future policies. “New information from this study could be useful in pre-leasing or post-leasing decisions, such as those affecting sensitive habitats that are the focus of this study.”