Coral gardens

The announcement last week that University of Maine and NOAA researchers had discovered underwater coral gardens deep under the sea off Mount Desert Island clearly demonstrates that we still have much to learn about the Gulf of Maine.

Prior to the release of photos of colorful corals and anemones, most folks held the impression that the ocean bottom was merely a rocky or mud-choked plain inhabited by the occasional lobster or halibut. Those images of such delicate and beautiful creatures are powerful proof of the remarkable diversity and fragility of aquatic life.

They are reminders of what is at risk should we fail to take all measures necessary to insure the health of our ocean waters. For too long, the gulf, and Frenchman and Blue Hill bays surrounding MDI, have been seen as the final repository of effluent from sewage treatment plants and private septic systems, storm water runoff, and agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides washed from farms and lawns into streams that drain into the sea.

The impact from fishing practices that involve dragging heavy nets across the sea floor, in effect, bulldozing wide swaths of bottom, also often have been minimized.

The existence of the spectacular coral gardens shines a bright light on what might be lost should we fail to exercise due caution in our approaches to that ecosystem.