Deep reefs are ecological hotspots and serve many important roles for both aquatic and land environments. They are essential for climate change resistance, aid in ocean health and food security and serve as shelter for threatened aquatic life. Deep reefs are located 30m below the water’s surface and have a greater surface area than shallow reefs.

An international team of marine scientists and conservationists have made an irreversible plea for the urgent preservation of the deep reefs. A new study published in the Conservation Letters, led by scientists from Nekton, the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and the University of Oxford, states the data behind their urgent plea. The study was conducted in the Western Indian Ocean, finding that the deep reefs within those waters were greatly unprotected. The Western Indian Ocean covers 8% of the global oceans with a high amount of marine species only native to that area. The shallow and deep reefs of that area are biodiversity hotspots, but have become compromised by nonexistent protection and subject to external threats. These reefs are currently undergoing multiple stressors – overfishing, pollution, climate change and eventually seabed mining.

“We strongly encourage deep reefs to be included in conservation and sustainable management action to complement global targets, notably 30% protection of the global ocean by 2030. Deep reefs are critical to a healthy marine ecosystem and face similar threats from overfishing, pollution, and climate change faced by the much-imperiled shallow reef system.” – Dr Paris Stefanoudis, Marine Biologist at the University of Oxford’s Department of Biology and a Research Scientist at Nekton.

There has been a domino effect in our oceans, traveling from the shallow waters to the deep within. The growing scarcity of fish in the shallow waters due to overfishing and now the growing deep-sea fishing technologies, deep reefs are becoming more exploited by coastal communities.

A new prevention framework was developed for the UN Biodiversity Conference to acknowledge and hopefully carry out in order to increase conservation efforts – protect, conserve, manage, invest, and collaborate. Each topic detailing the recommendations and actions necessary. Created by Marine Biology Professor Lucy Woodall at the University of Oxford and Nekton Principal Scientist, and Executive Director Arthur Tuda of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.