Mr. Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council:
Please take action at the upcoming New England Fishery Management Council meeting to protect deep-sea corals off the coast of New England from being destroyed by fishing gear such as bottom trawls and dredges. The Council should select a plan that mirrors the landmark action by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council that protects areas known to have corals and prevents fishing from expanding into new areas.
Protecting known corals and “freezing the footprint” of habitat destruction are the heart of modern coral management, therefore the Council should only approve alternatives that can be proven to accomplish these goals. The Council should develop a plan based on the best available science from the National Marine Fisheries Service and other researchers. Any alternative that is not based on science should not be approved by the Council or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The plan must include:
1) Protections for each of the 20 offshore canyon areas in the New England region.
2) Restrictions to prohibit trawls and dredges from areas that are not currently fished, based on documentation by fishing vessel logbooks and satellite monitoring information.
The Council should only select alternatives that are shown to protect known corals and freeze the footprint of harmful fishing gear.