Today, Oceana released a new digital tour exploring the living seafloor habitats off the U.S. West Coast. The tour highlights the need to protect these areas from bottom trawling—the fishing practice most destructive to the ocean floor. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (“Council”)—a 14 member federal advisory body—currently is reviewing protections for long-lived coral and sponge gardens and rocky reefs, including new areas identified by Oceana. Through this process, the Council may recommend new protections and may recommend removing important protections put in place more than a decade ago. This new digital tour highlights some of the most at risk areas.
“The future of the living seafloor is at a crossroads,” said Ashley Blacow, Pacific Policy and Communications Manager with Oceana. “This new digital tour shows that many areas of ocean floor are teeming with life. These areas are important for the long-term health of the ocean and merit protection.”
In 2005, the federal government protected from bottom trawling more than 135,000 square miles of coral, sponge, and rocky reef habitats essential to the reproduction, growth, and sustainability of recreationally and commercially important fish species. The Council and NOAA Fisheries have a legal responsibility to re-evaluate seafloor protections. As part of this review process, Oceana and its partners submitted an Essential Fish Habitat conservation proposal that would increase seafloor protections throughout federal waters off the U.S. West Coast, with minimal impact to the fishing industry. The Council is considering this proposal alongside others that would result in a net conservation loss by forgoing protections for newly discovered areas and by removing some of the landmark protections secured in 2005.
“Seafloor habitats critical to the planet’s biodiversity and the health of our U.S. West Coast fisheries could be lost forever,” said Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director for Oceana. “The federal government now has the opportunity to prevent further loss of these irreplaceable habitats while maintaining vibrant fisheries.”
The Council is scheduled to select the proposal it wants to see move forward, called the Preliminary Preferred Alternative, at its September meeting.
Access the EFH tour at www.oceana.org/PacificSeafloorTour
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.