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July 2015 Issue

Protection for Deep-Sea Canyons In Mid-Atlantic, Video Released
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to protect 27 named deep-sea canyons divided into 15 protection zones, as well as a vast swath of surrounding deep-sea habitat, off the region’s coast. These areas are home to rare, ecologically important and highly vulnerable cold-water coral communities and other remarkable sea life.

At approximately 38,000 square miles and extending from the edge of the Continental Shelf to the boundary of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, this will be the largest ocean area in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico protected from destructive bottom fishing.

The council, together with NOAA, initiated development of the protection plan three years ago to safeguard deep-sea corals. This plan is the first to rely on special legal authority to protect deep-sea corals that was added to the federal fisheries management law in 2006. The plan now goes to NOAA, where approval is expected.

“It is the most sweeping move to date to protect ocean habitat off our most populous coastline,” said Brad Sewell of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “One pass of bottom-trawling gear can destroy corals that have been growing for thousands of years.”

Since 2011, NOAA has led a series of research dives into the Atlantic canyons, resulting in discovery of new and rare species, and new understandings about ecological relationships and the diversity of ecological settings in the canyons and seamounts.

In related news, BOEM announced the availability of a new video, “Pathways to the Abyss,” showcasing the deepwater marine habitats of two Mid-Atlantic canyons located 100 miles offshore Virginia and Maryland. The film is the product of a five-year study sponsored by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program and funded by BOEM, the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA. It includes interviews with scientists from universities, research institutions, the private sector and the federal government who participated in research cruises to the Norfolk and Baltimore Canyons from 2011 to 2013.


Barrier Island Restoration For Louisiana
BOEM is helping restore one of Louisiana’s key barrier islands. An agreement signed between the state and BOEM will allow the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana to use federal offshore sand to restore the beach, dunes and marsh habitats at Caillou Lake Headlands, a.k.a. Whiskey Island. The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Program is providing the funds.

The Whiskey Island project will excavate up to 13.4 million cubic yards of sand from Ship Shoal. The sand, located 9 miles offshore in federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), will be pumped through a temporary pipeline to the project site to construct approximately 1,100 acres of barrier island habitat.

The project would provide a centralized sand source for the natural nourishment of down-drift barrier islands east and west of the project site and maintain estuarine conditions in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary system.


Draft Plan to Manage Jonah Crab Fishery
A complete picture of the Jonah crab fishery in federal and state waters is difficult to ascertain due to the mixed nature of the fishery. In the absence of a comprehensive management plan and stock assessment, increased harvest of Jonah crab may compromise the sustainability of the resource.

The Jonah Crab FMP was initiated in response to concern about increasing targeted fishing pressure for Jonah crab, which has long been considered a bycatch in the lobster fishery. However, growing market demand has increased landings by 6.48 fold since the early 2000s. The majority of crab are harvested by lobstermen using lobster traps.

A mixed crustacean fishery has emerged that can target both lobster or crab or both. The mixed nature of the fishery makes it difficult to manage a Jonah crab fishery completely separate from the American lobster fishery without impacting the number of vertical lines and traps capable of catching lobster in state and federal waters.

The Draft Jonah Crab FMP seeks to address the following issues: there are no crab-specific regulations in federal waters or permit/license requirements; there are no minimum size protections for Jonah crab, nor are there regulations to protect spawning biomass; supermarkets and other major buyers are positioning to discontinue selling processed and whole Jonah crab unless it is managed sustainably; a lack of universal permit and reporting requirements makes it difficult to characterize catch and effort to the full extent in order to manage the fishery; a Jonah crab trap is not distinguishable from a lobster trap, making it difficult to independently manage crab and lobster fisheries; and implications for the lobster fishery and marine mammal interactions compromising the effectiveness of the Large Whale Take Reduction and Lobster plans.

Public comment on the Draft FMP will be accepted through July 24 via Megan Ware, FMP coordinator: mware@asmfc.org.


Craft Beer Raises Awareness For Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
The Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), Oregon State University, and Rogue Ales & Spirits announced the release of Wasted Sea Star, a beer brewed to raise awareness about Sea Star Wasting Syndrome—a pandemic killing millions of sea stars along the Pacific Coast and across the U.S. This is the largest marine animal disease event in recorded history. Rogue Brewmaster John Maier crafted this beer using purple corn nectar, a revolutionary new ingredient, to pay homage to a native species rapidly disappearing from the Oregon coastline. Like these sea stars, the beer has a light reddish-purple hue. Like the beer, these sea stars call Newport, Oregon, home.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this beer will go towards research of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome conducted by PISCO, a long-term monitoring and research program.

Wasted Sea Star will be available nationwide throughout the summer.


2015:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY
2014:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC


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