And Maybe New Protections by Yareth Rosen (Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from Alaska Beacon under a Creative Commons license and edited for space and style. alaskabeacon.com) Scientists were on the water last summer gathering information about a once-mysterious habitat—the large and varied gardens of colorful corals that cover parts of the Alaskan seafloor. What they learn could prompt new restrictions for commercial seafood harvests.  Though often associated with tropical locations, corals and associated sponges are also important features of Alaska’s marine ecosystem. Some of the state’s sites are believed to hold the world’s most diverse and abundant deep-sea coral and sponge communities, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And like their tropical counterparts, Alaskan corals are vulnerable to disturbances—from bottom-scraping trawl nets, climate change, and ocean acidification. In the Gulf of Alaska, a NOAA research cruise that uses remotely operated vehicles and underwater cameras followed a…