[Coral-List] Take action to protect deep-sea corals from bottom fishing in the Mid-Atlantic

Aaron Kornbluth AKornbluth at pewtrusts.org
Fri Jan 9 12:34:29 EST 2015

Greetings all,

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manages federal waters from New York to North Carolina and out to the edge of the EEZ, is considering a groundbreaking action<http://www.mafmc.org/actions/msb/am16> to protect deep-sea corals and their habitats from destructive bottom fishing. If the strongest conservation alternatives are adopted, the plan will represent the second-largest such protected area in the entire Atlantic Ocean (only the Charlie-Gibbs South MPA in the North Atlantic is larger), ensuring that about 39,000 mi2 (~100,000 km2) of ocean bottom are off-limits to the impacts of irreversible damage from fishing.

Recent cruises (e.g., aboard the vessels Okeanos Explorer<http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1404/welcome.html> and Nancy Foster<http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/12midatlantic/welcome.html>) into geologically and biologically unique canyons along the continental shelf by NOAA and its partners have resulted in exciting discoveries of:

  *   one new genus and nine new species of cold-water corals;
  *   corals formerly unknown to the region (e.g., the discovery of Lophelia pertusa<http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967064513002415>); and,
  *   the use of these habitats by valuable fish and invertebrates, including monkfish, hake, tilefish, flounder, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and squid.

Deep-sea corals and their ecosystems are increasingly recognized as a new frontier in scientific research, from their value as ocean sinks for carbon dioxide to their potential use in biomedical products. Around the world, many similar deep-sea biodiversity hotspots have already been destroyed, and because numerous fish assemblages are expected to shift deeper, away from warming waters, fisheries are expected to follow. The Council's plan will represent the first use of a new discretionary authority specifically designed to protect deep-sea corals under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The extent to which the plan prioritizes coral conservation will set the course for future actions throughout the nation's waters, and add to the growing global network of deep-sea protected areas.

Please support this action<http://bit.ly/1xS2XmK> (before the close of the comment period on January 28) by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and demonstrate our collective scientific interest in safeguarding these unique, ancient, and little-understood animals. The Council will also hold several hearings<http://www.mafmc.org/newsfeed/2014/mid-atlantic-council-to-hold-hearings-on-deep-sea-corals-amendment> in the coming weeks (including one by webinar), so if you are interested and available, we encourage you to attend.

Many thanks,

Aaron Kornbluth
Senior Associate, U.S. Oceans, Northeast | The Pew Charitable Trusts
p: 202-540-6530 | e: akornbluth at pewtrusts.org<mailto:akornbluth at pewtrusts.org>

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