Federal fishery managers have taken a small step forward on the issue of whether to amend groundfish and crab fishery management plans to protect significant concentrations of deep-sea corals in Pribilof Canyon in the Bering Sea.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council this past week adopted a purpose and need statement which is needed to determine whether and how the council should recommend an amendment to those Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands FMPs to protect the deep-sea corals and the adjacent slope from fishing impacts under the appropriate authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.
The motion approved by council members at their spring meeting in Anchorage said their action may identify a discrete area or areas of significant abundance of deep sea corals in, and directly adjacent to, the Pribilof canyon, assess the potential for fishing impacts on the identified area or areas of significant coral abundance, evaluate the historical and current patterns of fishing effort and more in the Pribilof Canyon. The canyon is a long submarine canyon rising from the Bering Abyssal Plain on the floor of the Bering Sea to the southeast of the Pribilof Islands in Alaska.
Last June the council passed a motion to identify and validate areas of coral concentrations for possible management measures for the conservation and management of deep-sea corals in Pribilof and Zhemchug canyons. Zhemchug, also a submarine, is located in the middle of the Bering Sea.
In testimony submitted for the NPFMC meeting, environmental organizations, including Oceana, urged the council to adopt clear objectives and move forward to protect the sensitive habitat, which is critical to many species of ocean wildlife.
Oceana asked the council and National Marine Fisheries service to provide scientific control areas, fully protect representative habitats, protect hotspot, sensitive and important areas, and avoid impacts to essential fish habitat, including corals, sponges and emergent epifauna.
Lengthy public comment on this issue from Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace are posted online, along with other meeting details, at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2014/4/892_A_North_Pacific_Council_14-04-07_Meeting_Agenda.pdf