Conservation Law Foundation Calls on NOAA to Advance Proposal to Establish Dedicated Ecological Research Area in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Samantha Caravello

CONTACT:
Karen Wood, CLF, (617) 850-1722, kwood@clf.org
Priscilla Brooks, CLF, (617) 850-1737, pbrooks@clf.org

BOSTON, MA  September 15, 2011 – On Wednesday, September 14, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary proposed to establish an Ecological Research Area within the Sanctuary’s boundaries. Although the Sanctuary’s multi-stakeholder Advisory Council voted strongly in favor of the proposal, NOAA officials decided not to send the proposal on to the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) for further review. Conservation Law Foundation today issued the following statement in response to the proposal and NOAA’s disappointing move:

Priscilla Brooks, Ph.D. director of CLF’s Ocean Conservation program, said, “Yesterday’s proposal by the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary staff to establish a Sanctuary Ecological Research Area is a bold step forward in the Sanctuary’s stewardship of this national treasure. This incredibly rich ecosystem and the close location of the Sanctuary to New England’s world-renowned marine science research institutions and ports makes Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary an excellent choice for a dedicated research area where scientists can study and learn more about New England’s greatest natural resource – our ocean.

Given the public release of this proposal and the support of Sanctuary Advisory Council, we are baffled that NOAA would then decide not to move the proposal forward to the New England Fishery Management Council for further public and stakeholder consideration and a final decision on the proposal. NOAA’s erratic decision is confusing and disappointing to citizens and scientists who have long supported the Sanctuary’s efforts and indicates an inexplicable willingness by NOAA to put the scientific management and stewardship of Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary on the back burner.

We applaud the very good effort by the staff at the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary. NOAA now needs to move the proposal forward and submit it for review by the Fishery Management Council.”

Background

On Wednesday, September 14, the superintendent of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Dr. Craig MacDonald, presented a groundbreaking proposal to establish a dedicated ecological research area within the Sanctuary’s boundaries to study the area’s diverse ecosystem. The Sanctuary Advisory Council voted strongly in favor of the proposal. Since commercial fishing management regulations would determine the scope of the research area, the proposal would need to be further deliberated and decided upon by the NEFMC as a part of its ongoing work to meet its legal requirements to protect essential fish habitat. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials decided not to send the proposal on to the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) for further review.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1992 as New England’s only national marine sanctuary in recognition of its outstanding productivity and unique diversity of ocean wildlife and habitat. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is New England’s only national marine sanctuary and one of the most productive and diverse places in New England’s ocean. Stellwagen is also one of New England’s premier areas for commercial and recreational fishing and wildlife viewing – including the North Atlantic Right Whale, one of the most endangered species on the planet.

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