Today’s Editorial for August 13: Time to do some deep research

The cure for cancer and world hunger could be right at our doorstep and we don’t even know it – yet.

British scientists are getting ready to explore the Cayman Trough.

They expect to find amazing creatures and will use that information to compare the Cayman Trough with other deep volcanic trenches around the world.

One of the things they will be examining is whether deep ocean currents are responsible for transporting similar species around the world.

But probably more important to us as humans is the potential for using the research to help develop drugs for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Deep reefs are the next logical place to look for new genetic resources to cure human ailments.

Already the Central Caribbean Marine Institute has been studying Blood Bay Wall off Little Cayman, which harbours some of the most biologically diverse and intact reef systems in the Caribbean.

The CCMI research will tell us about reef conservation by comparing notes on what’s found down in the deep to research already done on shallow reefs.

CCMI’s research has shown there is a 40 per cent loss in coral cover on shallow reefs, but discovering how the loss is related to deeper reefs has so far been impossible because there hasn’t been a way until recently to go down so deep.

CCMI has been able to dive 520 feet and has made some striking discoveries.

The CCMI team has found diseases on corals on Bloody Bay Wall and an abundance of red algae, among other things.

While CCMI won’t be involved with the UK team’s research, it will use the information gathered from the Cayman Trough.

As important as deep sea research is to the ecology of the ocean and to us in terms of future medical treatments for major diseases, it is just as important to respect the deep sea environment.

We must prevent environmental and scientific tragedies without hampering discovery.

So much is known about what is in outer space.

Now it’s time to find out what lies beneath.