May 12, 2016 — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:
ARLINGTON, Va. — In a May 9th letter to President Barack Obama, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) urged the President and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for transparency and a robust opportunity for public input as the Administration considers designating a National Monument through its authority under the Antiquities Act. While details on the specific location of the monument remain unknown, one potential area discussed centers around the New England offshore canyons and seamounts.
Currently, the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is drafting an Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment which considers protection of corals in and around the canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. At the request of the Council, the Commission conducted a survey of active offshore lobstermen to understand the potential impacts to the fishery should lobster traps be limited by the Draft Amendment. Preliminary results indicate a high dependence on the offshore canyons for revenue, with over $15 million in revenue generated each year by fishermen targeting American lobster and Jonah crab in the canyons. Given that input from concerned stakeholders is a key component of the Council’s decision-making process, the Commission strongly supports using the Council process to develop measures to protect the ecosystems within these deep waters.
If the President chooses to use the Antiquities Act to protect deep sea corals, the Commission requested the designated area be limited to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. Additionally, the Commission requested the area be limited to depths greater than approximately 900 meters and encompass any or all of the region seaward of this line out to the outer limit of the exclusive economic zone. Further, the Commission asked that only bottom tending fishing effort be prohibited in the area and all other mid water/surface fishing methods (recreational and commercial) be allowed to continue in the area.