West Coast Trawlers Accused of Wrecking Deep-Sea Coral Colonies

Even as marine scientists are discovering extensive colonies of deep-sea coral off the western coast of the U.S., huge factory trawlers are already destroying the fragile areas, which are believed to provide habitat to large populations of marine species, conservationists say. “These are the old-growth forests of the sea,” said Mark Powell of the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy. His group is one of many now pushing for new restrictions on deep-sea trawling, which involves dragging heavy equipment along the ocean floor to net massive quantities of fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service is expected next month to release an environmental impact statement on ocean trawlers in the Pacific, a report that’s likely to call for at least some new protections, but enviros say the Bush administration seems unwilling to move fast enough to effectively tackle the problem.