Thanks to Wednesday vote of the Fishery Management Council, Mid-Atlantic corals are now protected from dredge fishing and trawl. The decision involves an area of approximately 38,000 square miles of ocean habitat.
Environmentalists welcomed the Council’s decision highlighting the fragility of the varied ecosystems which lie in the waters of the Atlantic. Fishing nets and trawling, conservation organizations and scientists explain, represented a threat to the delicate creatures. Corals grow slowly and have long lifespans, and that’s precisely why they have a difficult time recovering from damage.
The Council’s decision was described by Rick Robins, its chairman, as a historic decision for habitat conservation. It encountered strong opposition from the squid industry, which would have most to lose if all of the council’s restrictions would be enforced. For the moment, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s vote will be submitted to the US Commerce Secretary.
After revising the Council’s recommendations, the US Commerce Secretary will decide whether the measures will be approved and if yes, these will become law next year.
Environmentalists had hoped to further increase the protected areas. Currently, fifteen deep-water canyons and other sites are protected by the Council’s decision. In total, the area spreads across a space the size of Kentucky, the nonprofit organization Oceana explains.
Even the executive director of the Garden State Seafood Association, who initially objected many of the council’s restriction, has now come to a consensus with environmentalists.
“[The regulations protect] the most valuable and unique habitats in the region.”
Such regulations are considered precautionary measures, Oceana campaign manager Gib Brogan explains. By drawing clear lines as to where one may and where one may not fish (depending on coral population existence in the area), the Council is effectively protecting precious ecosystems.
Brogan added that there are many aspects still unknown about corals and the part they play in ocean ecosystems.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has effectively become the first such authority to not only prevent over-fishing and set catch limits in accordance with President Bush’s 2007 legislation, but also the first to actively protect the interests of natural habitats rather than aiming for improved sustainability of fisheries.
There are some limitations to the Council’s restrictions. For one, the council’s jurisdiction does not extend over lobster fishing. Additionally, red-crab fishing has also been exempted from being included in Wednesday’s vote. Oil and gas drilling are also not affected, and neither is cable laying or additional underwater activities.
Image Source: Nrdc