The reef, which is described as ‘pristine, thriving and hence spectacular’ was found off the southern end of the Porcupine Bank off the west coast of Ireland.

The province covers an area of some 200sq km and contains about 40 coral reef covered carbonate mounds, some of which rise as high as 100m above the seafloor.

The discovery was made by the National University of Ireland Galway during a deep water deep-water research expedition, which took place earlier this month.

Dr Anthony Grehan, of NUI Galway, said: “These are by far the most pristine, thriving and hence spectacular examples of cold-water coral reefs that I’ve encountered in almost ten years of study in Irish waters.

“There is also evidence of recent recruitment of corals and many other reef animals in the area suggesting this area is an important source of larvae supply to other areas further along the Porcupine Bank.”

Dr Grehan suggested that given the rugged terrain, its unsuitability for trawling and its well defined boundaries, that the area would be an excellent additional candidate to the four existing off-shore coral Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).

He said NUI Galway’s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences would in due course provide a copy of all video footage to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to help them in their work of further SAC designations to comply with the European Union’s Habitat Directive.

Luke Walsh

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