From the early 19th century, most records of Lophelia pertusa from the west coast of Scotland came from fishermen and naturalists. It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that scientists discovered L. pertusa once again. Research began again in the late 1990s, and the area was surveyed and mapped in 2003, when the true extent of the reefs was first uncovered, see our Mingulay Reefs Case Study.
Many areas of the reef complex have now been mapped in detail; its rich biodiversity is being uncovered, its hydrography, while complex, provides the baseline for explaining the occurrence and biodiversity of its associated fauna, studies of the palaeoecology and oceanography are underway, trophic studies have revealed the life habits of L. pertusa, and several new species have been discovered.
A consultation over future conservation measures was begun in November 2010 and concluded with approval from Scottish Ministers to create a Special Area of Conservation in August 2011. The SAC proposal will now be submitted to the European Commission for inclusion in the European Union-wide 'Natura' network of protected areas.