Fishing may be restricted in the Mid-Atlantic to protect deep sea corals. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is announcing today (Wednesday, Jan. 18) that it is commencing a process to protect corals. Measures may involve limiting fishing in certain areas for Atlantic mackerel, squid and butterfish.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council ((MAFMC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service are trying to assess how fishing gear used to catch the above species may be contributing to loss of the coral. The agencies plan to write a draft environmental impact statement or environmental assessment but will first ask for public participation.
NOAA is taking public comments until Feb. 15. For details, see http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-16/html/2013-00808.htm.
NOAA has also scheduled two public scoping meetings.
The first one takes place Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7-9 p.m. EST via webinar. See www.mafmc.org/meetings/meetings.htm.
The second is slated for Wednesday, February 13, 4 p.m. EST at the Embassy Suites Hampton Roads, 1700 Coliseum Drive, Hampton, Va 23666.
MAFMC is working with the New England Fishery Management Council, which shares similar concerns.
MAFMC will consider several options, including doing nothing and designating deep sea coral protection zones where fishing could be restricted. It may consider restricting types of gear or other ways to minimize bycatch of deep sea corals.