New England’s protected waters threatened

A short-sighted plan threatens New England’s coastal ecosystem. Thousands of square miles of protected waters could see the return of damaging fishing practices, putting the recovery of cod and other struggling marine life in peril.

When fish populations crashed in the 1990s, these closed areas were created to protect juvenile fish, spawning areas, and seafloor habitat. Other species benefit too, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and harbor porpoises.

Now fishery managers want to open more than half of these sheltered zones. A rash decision to remove protections could undo decades of recovery. Read more…

Eminent marine scientists, led by Dr. Peter Auster, urged NOAA to reconsider:

“NOAA Fisheries and the New England Council are on the precipice of a monumental decision – a decision that would allow fishing in huge areas that have been protected from the most damaging forms of fishing for many years. The plan contemplated is clearly a major federal action that will significantly affect the quality of the human environment. There has not been sufficient analysis to know whether or not opening these areas can provide the fishery relief that is the intent of this proposal. There has not been sufficient consideration of the ecological function of the current areas nor how they are contributing to the status of groundfish or anything else. We urge you to look at the existing areas in the context of an integrated system of habitat areas that can provide the ecological support that the region needs to sustain fishermen and fisheries, and to move the region toward ecosystem-based management. The groundfish closed areas should be thoroughly examined within the context of the OHA, including a comprehensive EIS. The risks associated with opening these areas without a proper analysis are very high.” Read more…

This posting was adapted from material posted by the Pew Charitable Trusts.