News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 13, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, July 13, 2017
NEFMC adopts Gulf of Maine deep-sea coral protection amendments
Traps, pots still allowed in Outer Schoodic Ridge, MDI Rock

by Anne Berleant

The New England Fishery Management Council adopted coral protection zones for the Gulf of Maine as part of its Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment on June 22, following its own recommendations restricts bottom-tending mobile gear, such as trawls and dredges, but allows other types, including lobster traps and pots, within the Outer Schoodic Ridge and Mt. Desert Rock areas, Zone B lobster-fishing areas. The council based those recommendations on recognition of the economic impact of restricting lobster fishing inshore of the Gulf of Maine, NEFC stated in an April 19 press release, and held to them at its June 22 meeting.

However, the Council also included a list of items that could be modified in the Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment through framework adjustments rather than through additional amendments, including adding, revising, or removing coral protection zones; changing fishing restrictions; and adopting or changing special fishery programs.

The Council postponed action on the Continental Slope and Canyons Region, south of Geroges Bank, pending analysis of an alternative put forth by a coalition of environmental groups. The Council stated in a press release. The Council had recommended coral protection of 600 meters minimum depth. The new alternative sets the depth at 300 to 550 meters, in order to “freeze the footprint of bottom tending mobile gears.” The Council voted to consider combining its recommendation and the new alternative at a future meeting.

The Maine Deaprtment of Marine Resources had called on its local fishermen to send in data to help estimate the economic impact of a ban on lobster fishing in the two Zone B areas prior to the NEFC issuing its recommendations in April. A round of public meetings in May preceded the NEFMC adoption of the amendment on June 22.