Fishing Council Approves Amendment to Protect Corals

Council makes progress, but misses opportunity to establish more effective coral habitat protections

Coral amendment

Photo courtesy NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

January 30, 2018, (Boston, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation made the following statement today after the New England Fishery Management Council voted to approve its final Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment in an effort to protect fragile coral from potentially harmful commercial fishing gear.

“Using their authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to safeguard fragile corals is commendable,” said Allison Lorenc, Policy Analyst for Conservation Law Foundation. “However, the Council’s approval of Option 6 – based largely on fishing industry conjecture – is a missed opportunity to make decisions based on the best available information. The Council had an option on the table that would have protected far more corals and would not have had significant impacts on existing fisheries.”

Lorenc added that the Council’s chosen option allows for the possible expansion of damaging fishing practices into coral habitat areas currently untouched by fishing.

“Unfortunately, the Council’s decision is inconsistent with the stated goals of the amendment as well as guidance from NOAA Fisheries,” Lorenc said. “It leaves vulnerable corals and habitat unprotected without rational justification.”

NOAA and Council staff compiled data and analyzed another alternative, which was introduced during public hearings last year. This collaborative, science-backed approach would have provided the greatest ecological benefit while minimizing economic impact.

Peter Shelley and Allison Lorenc are available for further comment.

# # #