Atlantic Coral Reefs in Florida, Georgia, NC and SC to Get Protection

June 12, 2009
Contact: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Doug Rader, Environmental Defense Fund, (919) 523-8763, drader@edf.org

(RALEIGH, NC - June 12, 2009) "Sometimes saving things that most people can't see takes a long time, but they are worth fighting for," said Doug Rader, a scientist with Environmental Defense Fund who has worked for more than a decade to protect the deep-sea coral reefs that stretch down the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Yesterday, a federal fishery council agreed to continue its commitment to protecting the 25,000 square miles of pristine corals - one of the largest, continuous deepwater coral habitats in the world.

"This area is a spectacular new world, complete with bizarre animals and dark, unexplored canyons," said Rader, chief ocean scientist for EDF. "Every time scientists visit the reefs, they find new species and see places no human has ever seen before. The reefs are unique and their full value documented."

Since 1998, Rader has worked with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, marine scientists and fishermen to protect the ancient and fragile reefs against both fishing and non-fishing threats. Working together, they designed a plan that safeguards the corals and also allows traditional fisheries in the reefs.

A first for fishery councils in the United States, the plan strikes a novel and unique balance between achieving protection of critical habitat, while allowing fishermen to continue to have access to traditional fishing grounds with gears that do minimal damage. The council is expected to give final approval to the entire habitat area in September.

"The council's action sets an important example of co-management that is based on science and can be replicated in other fisheries," said Sarah Hagedorn, EDF ocean scientist. "Hats off to the commercial fishermen in the golden crab and royal red shrimp fisheries and the fishery council for efforts to manage fisheries based on ecosystems, rather than one species."