(WASHINGTON – Jan. 7, 2020) New rules by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have gone into effect on Jan. 1 to increase protections to deep-sea ecosystems by creating one of the largest marine protected areas off the U.S. West Coast while simultaneously re-opening newly restored fishing grounds.
The implementation of the rules, originally passed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and approved by NOAA Fisheries last November, comes after months of negotiations between fishermen, environmentalists and other stakeholders to create what one called a “grand bargain” covering some 135,000 square miles of open ocean — an area twice the size of Washington state.
In addition to the historic closures of sensitive ecosystems, the rules, known as Amendment 28, reopen about 2,000 square miles of grounds that had been closed to foster rebuilding of overfished rockfish species. Now that the species has been rebuilt, the areas can be reopened for sustainable fishing under tightened rules that provide greater accountability. This will give fishermen added flexibility to fish for a variety of species within their allotted quotas.
Amendment 28’s passage comes as a result of collaboration between NOAA, industry, conservation groups and fishermen in a shared commitment to preserve marine ecosystems benefiting all.
“This shows that people and nature can prosper together when we work cooperatively across different interests,” said Shems Jud, Pacific regional director for Environmental Defense Fund Oceans program. “Preserving coastal areas benefits both the environment and fishing communities that rely on this natural resource. Implementation of this rule shows that conservation and sustainable fishing practices can go hand in hand.”
The new rules will provide bottom trawl fishermen with access to recovered groundfish stocks in areas that had been closed since the rockfish conservation area was established in 2002; the amendment includes additional protections for sensitive habitat within active trawl areas, as well as precautionary closures outside these areas.
“There is something here for everyone, and it is possible only because many fishermen sacrificed and participated in the planning to bring the groundfish fishery back,” said Ryan Wulff, assistant regional administrator for sustainable fisheries in NOAA’s West Coast region. “This will provide more flexibility for a fishing fleet that has demonstrated its responsibility, and at the same time protect deep-water habitats that we are only beginning to learn about.”
Extending the marine protected areas under Amendment 28 will increase West Coast ecosystem protection, as well as provide more flexibility and access for sustainable bottom trawling fishermen.
EDF has worked alongside NOAA Fisheries and West Coast industry groups extensively to establish Amendment 28 and continues work in West Coast fisheries to balance both ecological and economic goals and needs.
# # #
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.