Vote Aids Deep Sea Corals in Much of Mid-Atlantic

Date: June 10, 2015

Source: New York Times

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted Wednesday to protect deep sea corals from most bottom fishing over about 38,000 square miles of ocean, running from New York to Virginia.

Coral like these will be protected from most bottom fishing because of a Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council vote. Credit National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The corals form fragile ecosystems hundreds of yards underwater that support a variety of fish. And bottom trawling, mostly by the squid fishery, posed a threat, according to scientists and conservation organizations that have lobbied in recent years to protect the corals, which are slow-growing and long-lived, and therefore do not recover easily from damage.

The squid industry, which initially objected to many of the restrictions, worked with scientists and conservationists to establish boundaries for 15 discrete deepwater canyons and other sites where bottom fishing would be prohibited. And in the end, said Gregory P. DiDomenico, the executive director of the Garden State Seafood Association, he supported the broader area that overlaps most of the canyons.

Mr. DiDomenico, whose group represents the New Jersey squid fishery, said the change would protect “the most valuable and unique habitats in the region,” although he objected to the push for an even larger area by environmentalists. Brad Sewell, the fisheries policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which lobbied for the change along with groups like Oceana and the Pew Charitable Trust, said the vote “marks a milestone in ocean-protection efforts.”

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