A Wreck, a Home

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Shipwrecks are a lure for divers and history buffs, but they also serve as an important refuge for marine life in areas with heavy fishing, Newsweek reported.

British marine scientists recently explored five shipwrecks off the coasts in northeastern England dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Three of these wrecks were in zones open to fishing trawlers, while two others were in protected areas.

In their paper, they discovered that the abundance of marine life, including fish and corals, was 240 percent greater in wreck sites frequently visited by fishing trawlers.

The seabed within a radius of 164 feet of the wrecks had a density of marine life 340 percent greater than in fishing-controlled sites.

Although the increased presence of marine creatures can attract fishermen, low-lying wrecks usually deter trawlers from targeting them because the nets can become entangled with the underwater debris.

The researchers wrote that shipwrecks “offer a baseline of ecological potential when trawling pressure is reduced or removed,” adding that this is the first study to analyze their role in areas exposed to heavy fishing.

They also proposed that the findings suggest that officials should consider the protection of shipwrecks as a way to help vulnerable wildlife.

“It has long been thought that shipwrecks could be playing an important role in providing sanctuary for marine species to utilize,” said co-author Joe Richards in a statement. “It is brilliant to see this proven in this study.”

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