In this study, an updated distribution of Lophelia pertusa between the Porcupine Seabight and Norwegian shelf is presented. It seems unlikely that enigmatic mound structures observed at water depths of more than 570 m during acoustic seabed surveys, particularly to the west of the Shetland Islands, are related to the occurrence of L. pertusa. At these depths in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, the predominant influence of cold Arctic water precludes its growth. Iceberg dumpsites are also considered unlikely explanations for the origin of these mounds, and they are interpreted as most likely to be related to the release of fluids at the seabed. When mound structures were investigated, no scleractinian corals were recovered at water depths >500 m. This study shows the importance of seabed temperature as an environmental control on cold-water coral distribution. The significance of cold-water coral habitats in sustaining high levels of local-scale biodiversity is now becoming apparent in parallel with increased hydrocarbon extraction and fishing activity beyond the shelf edge. There is growing evidence that these areas have been marked by the passage of deep-water trawls. It seems likely that trawling activity has already reduced the extent of cold-water coral distribution in this region of the north-east Atlantic. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.