Published: Nov 24, 2010 7:42 PM EST
Updated: Nov 24, 2010 4:42 PM EST

MIAMI (AP) - Scientists have explored some previously uncharted deep-sea coral sites in waters off Florida's coast.

Experts returned Tuesday from their 15-day mission called "Extreme Corals 2010." They collected coral, lobster, crab and fish samples from depths of more than 2,000 feet.

The mission stretched from the Keys to Jacksonville. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had designated 23,000 square miles from Florida to North Carolina as protected for corals. It was the first time scientists had seen many of the reefs.

Research teams also used multibeam sonar to map more than 800 square miles of deep-sea coral habitat.

NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program had sponsored the mission, which is in its second year of the mission.