California’s deep-water areas could be closed to bottom trawling

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Pacific Fishery Management Council is seeking public input for an amendment it submitted on a groundfish fishery management plan, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS. The proposed amendment is posted on the Federal Register website (www.federalregister.gov). Public comment on the amendment proposal will be accepted through Aug. 10.

NMFS staff stated the proposed amendment would, if approved, make two changes.

“Amendment 28 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan … would establish new and revised areas closed to bottom trawling to conserve and protect Pacific coast groundfish essential fish habitat, and would re-open areas that were closed to bottom trawling to rebuild previously-overfished groundfish stocks,” NMFS staff stated in the published request for public comment on the amendment proposal.

“These two changes are anticipated to increase protections for groundfish essential fish habitat and provide additional flexibility to participants fishing with bottom trawl gear in the groundfish trawl rationalization program,” NMFS staff continued.

Deep-water areas off the California coast would be closed to bottom contacting gear, according to the amendment proposal. The closure, NMFS staff stated, would “protect deep-water habitats, including deep-sea corals using discretionary fishery management plan provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.”

“The [Pacific Fishery Management] Council also considered new information regarding the deep-water habitats, including the presence of deep-sea corals in waters greater than 3,500 meters,” NMFS staff stated. “While little to no fishing occurs with gears that are designed to make contact with the bottom in this area, permanent damage to these habitats could occur from future prospective fishing with bottom contact gear.”

Anyone who wants to submit a comment should reference the document NOAA-NMFS-2019-0039. Comments can be mailed to Barry A. Thom, NMFS Regional Administrator, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, or submitted online at bit.ly/2RP9m21 (and select the “Comment Now” button).

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