Don't Remove Protection When Cod Need It Most
Changing Course for America's Oldest Fishery
Letter to NOAA officials signed by eight marine and fisheries scientists (PDF)
What’s At Stake?
Nearly 8,500 square miles (22,000 square kilometers) of New England's seafloor are protected from bottom trawling, providing much-needed shelter and habitat for juvenile and spawning fish (dotted outlines). Proposed changes would reduce this area of protected ocean by more than half.
Areas in orange show where regulators propose ending seafloor protection, a total of nearly 5,164 square miles (13,374 square kilometers). For perspective, the combined area is roughly equal in size to the state of Connecticut.
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1. Protected Areas Help
New England's protected areas date to the mid-1990s when NOAA and regional officials responded to crashes in the most important fish populations. The areas include boulder reefs and cobble-gravel bottom and serve as nursery habitat for juvenile groundfish of many species, including cod, haddock and flounder. Studies also show these areas helped scallops, the region's most valuable seafood product. This photo, courtesy of the Conservation Law Foundation, shows rich kelp habitat in the Cashes Ledge protected area.
2. Bottom Trawling and Dredging Damage Seafloor Habitat
Trawling and dredging strip the seafloor of deep sea coral and sponges, create choking clouds of sediment, and alter the very terrain of the seabed. Some scientists call it the most damaging activity humans undertake in the ocean, akin to clear-cutting of forests.
3. Protected Areas Help Fisherman
Peer-reviewed science shows closed areas export fish to the surrounding fishery, and some species are more abundant and have larger individuals inside closures. Larger, older fish are better able to reproduce and help rebuild the population over time. One study found a quarter of all New England fishing trips targeting groundfish took place within three miles of a closed area. Average revenue for those trips was twice as high as for fishing trips elsewhere. This map shows fishing effort over one year was heavily concentrated at the edges of protected areas. (from Murawski et. al., ICES, 2005).
Cod Shortage Roils Northeast, Jennifer Levitz, Wall Street Journal
Keep the Fishing Ban in New England, Callum Roberts, New York Times
New England Fishery Managers Trying to Un-do Decades of Protection, Carl Safina,National Geographic
Bracing for a New England Trawling Decision, Emma Bryce,New York Times