Deep-sea corals amendment readied for council;

Workshop participants seek to mitigate impacts to fishing in the areas

NEWBURYPORT, MA – At its Apr. 18-20 meeting, the New England Fishery Management Council will select preferred alternatives for the draft Omnibus Deep-Sea Corals Amendment.

Initiated in 2010, the amendment seeks to protect various types of deep-sea corals found on the continental slope, 20 canyons south of Georges Bank, and four areas in the Gulf of Maine.

The action follows recent workshops held with stakeholders in March to fine-tune boundaries of some of the proposed coral protected areas.

New England deep-sea corals are active-feeding animals found in deep waters, typically at depths greater than 80 fathoms.  They provide habitat for benthic fish and invertebrates.  But their slow growth rate makes recovery from physical damage from fishing gear difficult.

Deep-sea corals have been found as bycatch by Northeast Fishery Observers, more frequently in the GOM than on the shelf and canyons.

The council is taking its action under the provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (MSA) of 2006 that allows councils to take discretionary action to protect coral habitat…

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