Dear Mr. Oliver and Mr. Thom:
I write to express my support for approving and finalizing Amendment 28 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. This action will provide increased protections of the ocean’s living seafloor off the U.S. West Coast and restore fishing opportunities. Priority seafloor habitats, like cold-water corals, sponges, rocky reefs and underwater canyons provide essential habitat for the reproduction, feeding, growth and shelter of many species of federally managed groundfish. This includes commercially and recreationally important fish such as rockfish, lingcod, sharks, and flatfish. In addition, these habitats benefit many other species in the ecosystem like sea stars and octopus. Bottom trawling poses the single greatest threat to seafloor habitats and, in turn, jeopardizes the greater health of the ocean ecosystem.
I urge you to implement the final recommendations as unanimously approved by the Pacific Fishery Management Council for new and modified essential fish habitat conservation areas, changes to the rockfish conservation area, and the protection of the deep-sea ecosystem (greater than 3,500 meters in depth). The Council’s unanimous recommendations are grounded in science and the result of a thorough and deliberate public process. Importantly, this action will result in a win-win for fishermen and conservation, providing increased fishing opportunities and increasing seafloor habitat protections coastwide.
You have the opportunity and responsibility to protect these resources, both for their intrinsic value and for the important benefit that these public resources provide us in return. Protecting these important habitats will greatly benefit the ocean ecosystem and future generations, while maintaining vibrant and sustainable fisheries.