KEY WEST, FL– Today, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a plan to protect over 300 square miles of deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Mexico. The plan, titled “Amendment 9,” will protect 21 distinct areas, ranging from Florida to Texas, which scientists have identified as special coral habitats. Oceana has worked for more than a decade to identify and protect deep-sea corals from harmful fishing gears in United States waters and around the world, and has won victories for corals in the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific.
Oceana Southeast campaign manager Alison Johnson released the following statement in response to today’s decision:
“The Gulf Council should be commended for taking this first step to protect vulnerable and ancient corals off their coast. Deep-sea corals are some of the oldest animals on Earth, living for thousands of years and providing essential functions for marine wildlife like protection from predators and nurseries for young fish. These areas also benefit fisheries, providing habitat for many commercially and recreationally valuable types of fish such as snapper and grouper.
Bottom-tending fishing gear like trawls and dredges are some of the most destructive and unselective, dramatically disturbing marine wildlife by essentially bulldozing entire ecosystems. These harmful gears can wreak havoc on deep-sea corals, destroying centuries-worth of coral growth in only seconds. By protecting coral habitat areas, we are also protecting the larger ocean ecosystem, helping ensure the survival of many other marine animals.
Oceana calls on the federal government to take further action to approve Amendment 9 which would ensure that coral conservation in the Gulf of Mexico is effective and provides these unique ecosystems the protection they need. Although today’s action is a step forward, Oceana looks forward to working with the Gulf Council in the future to fully protect all of the Gulf’s deep-sea coral habitats.”
The proposed amendment will now be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service for review and approval, followed by a 60-day public comment period.
To learn more about Oceana’s work promoting responsible fishing, please usa.oceana.org/ResponsibleFishing.