Deep-Sea Corals

While many of us might not ever have the chance of seeing deep-sea corals in their natural setting, we still have an interest in making sure they are left unharmed. They provide vital habitat for numerous fish and invertebrate species, including commercially important grouper, snapper, sea bass, rockfish, shrimp, and crab. They are also home to organisms that produce chemicals with great potential for biomedical uses.

Scientists have discovered deep-sea coral habitats on continental shelves, slopes, canyons, and seamounts throughout U.S. marine waters, yet their full geographic extent is still unknown. NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program studies and provides scientific information needed to conserve and manage deep-sea coral ecosystems. Read more about the Program on our factsheet.

What are Deep-Sea Corals?

Deep-sea corals can live for hundreds or thousands of years, creating complex communities at ocean depths where the light is dim down to more than 10,000 feet deep. Some deep-sea coral species form reefs that very slowly grow more than 300 feet tall. Other species, shaped like bushes or trees, can form assemblages similar to groves or forests on the seafloor.

What’s Happening to Deep-Sea Coral Habitats?

Most deep-sea corals grow extremely slowly. Once damaged, the corals and the communities they support may take centuries to recover, if they recover at all.  Deep-sea corals are vulnerable to disturbance caused by fishing gears such as bottom trawls that contact the seafloor. They can also be damaged by activities associated with energy exploration and development, cable deployment, and other activities that disturb the seafloor. Additionally, ocean acidification—a result of the ocean absorbing increased carbon dioxide—can affect corals’ ability to grow and maintain their structures.

About the NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program Data Portal

This website provides access to deep-sea coral and sponge data, images, and technical reports from research funded by NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program and its partners.

The Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program’s mission is to provide scientific information needed to conserve and manage deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems. The program supports new research and curates existing information into a comprehensive deep-sea coral resource. Learn more about the program.

We would like to thank our Partners

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) were instrumental in constructing the DSCRTP website and national database.

The habitat reports were provided by program partners at NOAA Fisheries Science Centers, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, University of North Carolina - Wilmington, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

The occurrence data and images shown in the map engine was provided by NOAA Fisheries Science Centers and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and  National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Office of Exploration and Research, as well as institutions like Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and United States Geological Survey, museums like the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, California Academy of Sciences, Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection, and Bishop Museum; as well non-profit organizations like Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratories, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and Oceana and a number of academic partners.

For a complete listing of our partners and links to their websites, please visit our Partners Page.