Victory | April 10, 2018
Corals, Sponges, Underwater Canyons Get New Protections off U.S. West Coast
In a unanimous vote, the Pacific Fishery Management Council acted to protect more than 140,000 square miles of seafloor from bottom trawling, a destructive fishing practice in which heavy fishing gear is dragged across the seabed. This action will safeguard a unique variety of coral gardens, sponge beds, rocky reefs, and deep-sea ecosystems that provide nurseries, food and shelter for many species — including lingcod, sablefish, flatfish, sharks, rays and more than 60 species of rockfish — important for both ocean abundance and commercial and recreational fishing. This victory for ocean diversity will more than double the area of protected seafloor in U.S. waters off California, Oregon, and Washington. The fishery council’s action will also restore fishing opportunities by opening some historic fishing grounds that were previously closed to bottom trawling while overfished rockfish populations recovered. This outcome comes after a decade of campaigning by Oceana and its allies and builds on previous work which secured more than 135,000 square miles of West Coast seafloor protections in 2006. Once these new measures are implemented, more than 90 percent of the U.S. West Coast’s Exclusive Economic Zone (3-200 miles from shore) will be protected from bottom trawling.