Oceana and United Anglers of Southern California have joined forces to fight for a healthy sustainable California ocean.
As federal decision makers are poised to make a final decision of whether they will take action to protect essential fish habitat as mandated by federal law, Oceana and United Anglers have been traveling the state to inform the public, press, and decision makers of the threat of destructive bottom trawling to corals, sponges, and other living seafloor animals off the coast of California. Thousands of residents, including actor and ocean activist Ted Danson stepped forward this week to speak up for California’s living seafloor.
“Californians are taking action and telling the world that they care about what is happening to their oceans,” said Jim Ayers, director of the Pacific for Oceana. “Thanks to Gov. Schwarzenegger and Senator Alpert, protection for the seafloor in state waters out to three miles was adopted last year. Now the fight is on for the living seafloor in federal waters out to the 200 mile U.S. boundary.”
Corals, sponges, and other living seafloor animals provide oases of life in the ocean where a myriad of sea creatures can feed, spawn, breed, have nurseries for babies, and seek shelter from currents and protection from predators. According to the National Academy of Sciences, bottom trawling hurts the seafloor with the most damage done to long-lived slow growing animals like corals and sponges.
Oceana has developed a management alternative that would freeze the existing bottom trawl footprint to prevent expansion into pristine areas; close areas within the footprint that have corals, sponges, and other living seafloor habitat; restrict gear size; and require ongoing comprehensive research and monitoring. The approach, named Alternative 12, protects the seafloor habitat while maintaining commercial fishing opportunities.
“We have no right to trade our children’s future opportunities in the ocean for short-term profits today,” said Ted Danson, Oceana board member. “We can have vibrant fisheries and healthy oceans, but we have to manage smarter and learn to catch fish without destroying the seafloor habitat we depend on for healthy oceans.”
With a full size trawl net as a backdrop, the conservation and recreational fishing organizations gathered public comments asking the federal government to protect ecologically sensitive areas such as corals and sponges, and special places such as seamounts, biogenic areas, and deep sea canyons from destructive commercial fishing.
”Sportsmen and conservationists have recognized for decades that our oceans are finite resources,” said Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California. “With decisions on the table today, now is the time for the general public to let their voice be heard. I want to be able to catch halibut with my grandchildren. We need a healthy seafloor for that to be possible.”
For more information and to send a public comment, please visit www.savecorals.com.