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The Oceana Approach

Using science, law and an open public process, Oceana has developed a management approach that protects living seafloor habitat while maintaining vibrant fisheries for healthy sustainable ocean ecosystems.

The Oceana Approach is straightforward and uses all available information to protect and preserve living seafloor habitat.

1. Gather and map all available scientific information to locate and identify coral, sponge and other living seafloor habitat.

2. Gather and map information about the threat from bottom trawling in identified living seafloor habitat.

3. Freeze the existing bottom trawl footprint to prevent expansion into undisturbed areas.

4. Close "hotspot" areas within the existing footprint that have a profusion of corals, sponges and other living seafloor habitat.

5. Limit how much coral and sponge bottom trawlers can catch.

6. Conduct comprehensive research and mapping.

7. Require ongoing monitoring.

The first step in the Oceana Approach is to gather all information on the location, distribution and abundance of corals, sponges and other living seafloor habitat. Information is being compiled and analyzed from several key sources: data from fishery observers, trawl survey and historical data and direct observations by NOAA and other scientists using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

Second, data is entered into a Geographic Information System (GIS) database, which is then used to make specific and detailed maps of the precise locations of various significant corals, sponges and other living seafloor animals, as well as immediate threats from or interactions with bottom trawling.

Oceana's data gathering activities also include collecting information on fishery effort and working with NMFS to identify areas of higher and lower relative catch of commercial fish in specific blocks throughout U.S. waters.

Data is then analyzed to determine locations of relatively high concentrations of coral and sponge habitat and the locations of significant deep sea aggregations. This information is not only useful in identifying which areas must be protected, but also in determining the location of additional underwater areas for research. This reveals "hotspots" or areas for conservation priority.

Once the data is analyzed, Oceana and other groups formally and publicly advocate to governments to take protective action to preserve coral habitat. These same organizations work together to develop comprehensive proposals or alternatives to submit to responsible management bodies.

These include:

- Bottom trawl closures of all areas not currently trawled to prevent expansion to new pristine areas.

- Designated bottom trawl closures of high value sea floor structures where corals, sponges and other invertebrates tend to flourish (slope areas, canyons, and underwater mountains).

- Limits on trawler bycatch of corals and sponges.

- Research of respective areas through benthic mapping, research closures, regional onboard observers and vessel monitoring systems and annual evaluation of how well the protections are working.

The Oceana Approach provides responsible stewardship of public resources by protecting essential fish habitat while maintaining vibrant sustainable fisheries.