When a new species is discovered, no matter where in the world, it’s exciting for the entire scientific community and important to the human race. Discovering a new species is a humbling reminder that the human race does not necessarily have everything about this planet figured out, at least not yet! Often, new species turn up from remote jungle and rainforest locations, or from the very bottom of the sea. What truly turns heads is when a species is discovered in an unexpected place, right under the noses of watchful observers, such as the case from 2004 when a single bed of Rhodoliths were discovered just off the coast of Alaska.
As many who live or work around the fisheries industry in Alaska already know, Alaska’s marine habitat is closely watched and observed by many. Not only do locals and scientists take interest in the natural and academic wonders of the Alaskan waters, but carefully installed sustainability practices which govern the operations of Alaska fisheries put a great deal of importance on studying, preserving and protecting the wild Alaskan waters. That’s why it’s especially exciting when right in the heart of Prince William Sound an unexpected species can be discovered.
While beds of Rhodoliths can be found in the oceans of the world, for example near Greenland in the Arctic waters, for the first time they were documented in the waters of Alaska. Although they resemble coral, the Rhodoliths actually produce energy through photosynthesis. Their discovery in Alaska’s marine habitat is important because of the general role Rhodoliths occupy in marine ecosystems, acting as a transitional habitat. As such, generally Rhodoliths are found between sandy areas and the beginning of rockier areas. When it comes to certain seafood species like scallops and clams, Rhodoliths are known to be a habit zone where such species live.
In Alaska, great lengths are gone to in order to prevent any damage or destruction to the ocean floor. Keeping Alaska’s marine habitat in tact is all part of managing sustainability. The debate between which strategies and tactics should be viable options for Alaska fisheries is always refueled when a new or unexpected species is discovered in the icy Alaskan waters. One of the most controversial, bottom trawling, essentially scrapes and stirs up entire ecosystems, which can reduce the biodiversity, productivity and complexity of Alaska’s marine habitat beyond repair. When the nets used in bottom trawling many unwanted marine species, known as bycatch, are thrown back but it’s often too late. By the time they are re-released into the water they are already dead, or close to it.
Luckily, there are many organizations working to protect the oceans of the world. When marine environments are protected, the chance to find new and unexpected species like Rhodoliths is greatly increased. Do the right thing by supporting fresh, wild Alaskan seafood which comes from sustainable fisheries in order to preserve and protect Alaska’s marine habitat.