Reefs need protection

November 29, 2009 

I applaud your Nov. 22 Tar Heel of the Week article on Steve Ross, who is exploring the secrets of the ocean off the North Carolina coast.

As a former colleague of Dr. Ross at UNC Wilmington, I am abundantly aware of his work on deep-sea coral reefs constructed by the hard coral species Lophelia pertusa. There was no mention of Lophelia in your article. This deepwater ecosystem rightly deserves to be protected from potential oil and gas explorations in the future.

I was aboard the Duke University ship R/V Eastward which made the first photos of the cold coral reefs in the mid-60s off Cape Lookout, and I published the photos in a book I co-authored in 1973.

Our state senators and representatives should support the recent proposal from the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to the U.S. commerce secretary to make these Lophelia reefs from North Carolina to Florida as "Habitat Areas of Particular Concern" (HAPCs) to protect biodiversity and to ban destructive bottom-trawling over this vulnerable ocean bottom.

Robert Y. George, Ph.D.

Wake Forest

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