Each year in British Columbia waters, about 2,000 kilograms of coral is hauled to the surface in trawl nets, according to Department of Fisheries and Oceans statistics.
"That is amazing when you think the coral is incredibly light and fragile — it's not huge boulders," said Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans Society.
Lash, with a team of international scientists, will embark on an expedition in June that she hopes will provide enough information to convince the government to step in and protect the coral forests. Until now, there has been little research into varieties and locations of the tree-like creatures, Lash said.
In 2004, after research by Living Oceans, activists demanded the deep-sea habitat be protected from bottom trawling and DFO responded with a scientific review that concluded the habitat should be protected.
Boosting calls for protection was a 2004 statement signed by 1,100 international marine scientists calling on governments and the United Nations to stop the destruction of deep-sea corals.
"Bottom trawling is like fishing with bulldozers," U.S coral expert Elliott Norse said at the time.
But action from DFO has been slow, largely because of lack of information about deep-sea corals, Lash said.
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