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Saving Alaska’s Coral Gardens


Vibrantly colored fish darting among bright-red bubblegum coral. That's what scientists saw when they discovered cold-water coral gardens in the Gulf of Alaska. The gardens are exceptional in the sheer number and diversity of creatures that live there -- and today, they're being protected.

Located off Alaska's Aleutian Islands, the area is about the size of Texas and Colorado combined -- making it one of the largest protected areas in U.S. waters.

The new protections prohibit fishing with trawling nets that are dragged across the ocean bottom. These not only pull up sole, cod and other bottom-dwelling fish that live there. They also break off chunks of coral, inflicting wounds that take decades to heal. It takes hundreds of years for coral gardens to develop into vibrant ecosystems, but bottom trawlers can destroy them in seconds.

What about the fishermen you ask? Well, industry is often at odds with conservation. But not this time around. The Alaskan fishing trade hasn't challenged the new regulations even though more than $2 million in fishing revenues will be lost annually.

More needs to be done to protect coral habitats.

Script by Bob Rhein