Oceana Criticizes Proposed Federal Habitat Protection Plan as Illegal and Inadequate | Oceana

Oceana Criticizes Proposed Federal Habitat Protection Plan as Illegal and Inadequate

Press Release Date: October 6, 2009

Location: Boston


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Oceana today urged the New England Fishery Management Council to take serious steps to protect sensitive cod nursery habitats from destructive scallop dredges that scour the ocean bottom. Oceana requested a delay in approval of a scallop management proposal known as Amendment 10 to the Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan, to give the Council time to consider real and lasting protections for sensitive marine habitats that are destroyed by scallop fishing.

“The Council’s decision on how to manage scallop fishing will affect the New England marine environment for years to come,” said Chris Zeman, New England Fishery Program Counsel for Oceana. “But the proposed plan fails to adequately protect sensitive and essential fish habitat. This violates several key environmental laws and illegally ignores clear scientific evidence that scallop dredging has long-term negative effects on complex, rocky habitats that juvenile cod rely on for food and shelter.”

The Council is planning to make its final decisions during a special meeting on August 13 and 14 in Peabody, Massachusetts. Oceana is asking the Council to slow down and take the necessary time to consider a broader range of effective measures to protect the ocean floor and living creatures that depend on it.

“Each year, scallop dredges bulldoze an area of the ocean floor roughly equal to the areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island combined,” explained Zeman. “These dredges flatten cod habitat and kill fish as they catch scallops.”

Healthy cod nursery grounds are vital to New England’s historic fishing industry. While scallop catches are at historically high levels and the scallop fishery is second most lucrative fishery in New England after lobsters, the New England cod fishery has been particularly hard hit. Cod populations remain depleted and scientists are observing historical lows in the number of juvenile cod surviving to adulthood. These fish populations have already been overfished, and scallop dredging kills still more groundfish as it destroys their habitats and nursery grounds.

Oceana has actively participated in the development of Amendment 10 and the environmental analysis for over three years. Oceana, other environmental groups, habitat scientists, fishermen, and over 1,500 concerned citizens criticized the analysis for failing to provide meaningful options to protect habitat. “The council has illegally ignored these important comments. The only real decision now for the council is whether to go forward with a clearly inadequate document, or to revise the environmental analyses to comply with the law,“ says Zeman.

Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the world’s oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education. Founded in 2001, Oceana’s constituency includes members and activists from more than 150 countries and territories who are committed to saving the world’s marine environment. Oceana, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has additional offices in key U.S. coastal areas, a South American office in Santiago, Chile, and will open a European office in the fall of 2003. For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org.