A team of scientists from the National Institute of Technology at Mexico’s University of Veracruz have discovered 310 miles of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
These reefs’ importance lies in their biological productivity, researcher Leonardo Ortiz told Earther.
The reefs are positioned in a formation known as a reef corridor, creating a diverse ecosystem that includes animals like sharks, sea turtles and crustaceans. Five total reefs make up the total distance of the corridor, including the Corazones, Pantepec South, Piedras Altas, Los Gallos and Camaronera reefs.
In previous years, scientists have theorized that a corridor like this one might exist, but this is the first time it has been confirmed. Because the corridor was previously undiscovered, it is not currently protected.
Ortiz and the other scientists responsible for the discovery hope to secure protections for the reef in order to protect it from the oil and gas industry, which have the potential to move into the area.
Currently, the reefs are also being threatened by the fishing industry, which profits off the area’s biodiversity. Ortiz said the scientists are aware of the importance of implementing protections for the reefs that don’t impede on the livelihoods of the nearby fishermen.
In order to secure protections, the scientists are currently working with the Mexican Center for Environmental Law.