NMFS Final Rule on Mid-Atlantic Council’s Frank R. Lautenberg Deep Sea Coral Protection Area

The Council approved the Deep Sea Corals Amendment to the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan in 2015 in order to protect deep sea corals from the impacts of bottom-tending fishing gear. Within the protected area, commercial fishermen are prohibited from using most types of bottom-tending fishing gear such as trawls, dredges, bottom longlines, and traps. The rule does not apply to recreational fishing, commercial gear types that do not contact the sea floor, or the American lobster trap fishery. An exemption is provided for the deep sea red crab commercial trap fishery. Vessels may transit through the area if fishing gear is stowed and not available for immediate use. Development of the deep sea coral protection area was informed by several recent scientific research efforts undertaken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, including several deep sea surveys and the development of a predictive deep sea coral habitat suitability model. Using this information, the landward boundaries for the protected area were developed cooperatively by members of the Council’s advisory panels, deep sea coral experts, fishing industry members, and other stakeholders. Read the rest here with links to Fed Register 11:35