The Pacific Fishery Management Council added new protections last week for deep sea coral areas, modified areas that protect bottom habitat areas for groundfish and reopened areas previously closed to groundfish fishing.
These actions protect more than 136,000 square miles of corals, rocky reefs and undersea canyons in federal waters off the West Coast that are important to rockfish, flatfish and sable fish, according to a Pacific Fishery Management Council news release. This includes 135,000 square miles off the coast of California in depths too great for most bottom fishing activities.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has also reopened more than 3,000 square miles of historic fishing grounds closed to reduce harvest on overfished rockfish stocks. Nearly all those stocks have been rebuilt to sustainable levels, according to the news release.
“This decision demonstrates the Council’s commitment to protecting important fish habitats including rocky reefs, corals and sponges,” Council Chair Phil Anderson said in a written statement. “The decision was informed by sound science and further informed by the fishing industry and environmental community who are to be commended for their important contribution to the Council’s decision.”
The Pacific Fishery Management Council’s action increases habitat protection while providing greater opportunity for the West Coast bottom trawl fleet, according to Anderson.
The changes were made as part of a review the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries implemented seven years ago, according to the news release. Many of the changes were made through collaboration with the fishing industry, environmental advocates, federal, state and tribal agencies and the general public, according to the news release.
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s actions and amendments will be transmitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop enacting regulations, according to the news release.