NOAA Fisheries recently signed a final rule to designate coral protection areas on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine. The final coral protection areas data can be viewed in the Data Explorer in the Commercial Fishing category under Management Areas > Habitat Conservation.
Under the discretionary provisions for deep-sea coral protection in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the New England Fishery Management Council developed this action to reduce the impacts of fishing gear on deep-sea corals after considering long-term sustainable uses of the fishery resources in the area. The Council process took several years and included a high-degree of public input in the development of the final protection areas and associated measures, including use of the Northeast Ocean Data Portal to examine maps and data. Deep-sea corals are important sources of habitat for many species of fish and invertebrates, including commercially important fish species.
- Establishes the Georges Bank Deep-Sea Coral Protection Area. This area is on the outer continental shelf in New England waters. It complements the Frank R. Lautenberg Deep-Sea Coral Protection Area established by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in January 2017.
- Prohibits bottom-tending commercial fishing gear (with the exception of red crab pot gear) in the Georges Bank Coral Protection Area to protect deep-sea corals.
- Designates the Mount Desert Rock and Outer Schoodic Ridge Coral Protection Areas in the Gulf of Maine. Vessels are prohibited from fishing with bottom-tending mobile gear in these areas. Vessels are still able to fish for lobster in these areas using trap gear.
- Designates the Jordan Basin Dedicated Habitat Research Area in the Gulf of Maine as a dedicated habitat research area.
For more information:
- Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment final rule
- The NOAA bulletin posted on the web
- New England Fishery Management Council Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment page
- Portal News Item: Portal maps and data support public comment period for New England Fishery Management Council Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment
- Portal Case Study: Balancing Deep-Sea Coral Protection and Commercial Fishing