Today, the federal government issued a proposal to finalize a thirteen-year-long review of ocean habitat conservation. Developed by the New England Fishery Management Council, the action will change how fisheries are managed on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.
The proposed changes will substantially reduce the amount of protected seafloor habitat and grant the Atlantic scallop fishery access to vulnerable habitat areas in Georges Bank that have been closed for more than 20 years. In addition to allowing bottom trawling and dredging, the two most destructive fishing practices in the region, the proposal fails to protect areas that have been identified as important nursery grounds for Atlantic cod. Atlantic cod has been heavily overfished in recent years, leading to populations crashing and reduced catches.
Oceana fisheries campaign manager Gib Brogan released the following statement in response to the proposal:
“New England’s fisheries are in crisis today. The New England Council’s proposed action continues a callous disregard for conservation. This fundamentally irresponsible management style will not support the recovery of our fisheries and is an action the fisheries of this region cannot afford.
Instead of recognizing the disaster and helping fishermen move towards a more sustainable future, this habitat proposal would instead weaken the chances of recovery for this historic fishery.
The Fisheries Service has expressed serious concerns with the Council’s proposal and the effect of this action on the region’s fisheries. We encourage National Marine Fisheries Service to be the strong stewards of the oceans that the law requires and reject this proposal.
The future of New England’s fisheries cannot tolerate more mismanagement.”
The proposed changes to habitat conservation are available for public comment through December 5, 2017. After that, the federal government will consider these comments and take final action by early January, 2018.