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Massive deep sea reef discovered

Rosemary Bank sea sponge reef. (Photo: The Scottish Government/Crown Copyright)

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015, 02:10 (GMT + 9)
A major deep-sea sponge reef ecosystem has been discovered hundreds of miles off the north west coast of Scotland at Rosemary Bank.

Marine Scotland visual surveys have uncovered the most extensive and pristine sponge reefs to have been reported in UK waters.

Sponges have a skeletal structure and resemble bird’s nests, mushrooms or large cheeses. They filter enormous volumes of water and provide refuge for many other species of fish and invertebrates.

By designating Rosemary Bank as a marine protected area it will help this unusual ecosystem continue to thrive.

“Scottish waters cover an area around five times bigger than our land mass and are miles deep in places. These hidden gems offer a fascinating glimpse of the treasures that still await discovery under the waves," said Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.

“This important discovery is the largest grouping of sponge in the whole of the UK. Scotland's seas are home to a diverse range of precious sea life and it is our responsibility to protect this fragile environment. This is why earlier this year we designated Rosemary Bank as a marine protected area, to ensure the protection of ecosystems like this," he added.

“Deep-sea sponge reefs such as those on the Rosemary Bank seamount may take hundreds of years to form. They provide refuge for a great diversity of marine life; among the sponges we saw sharks, skates, octopus and crustaceans," highlighted Francis Neat, Chief Scientist on the survey. "The new data from this survey reaffirms the case for designation of the Rosemary Bank as a Marine Protected Area and will allow us to provide a stronger scientific basis for developing management plans for the area." 

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