Take Action: Support Protections for Gulf of Mexico's Deep-Sea Corals

Most of life on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico was a mystery until little more than a decade ago. In recent years, scientists have documented numerous fragile coral communities, some thousands of years old. These ancient bottom-dwelling animals play important ecological roles in the deep sea, offering feeding grounds, nurseries, and shelter for fish, crabs, lobsters, and many other marine animals. In addition, scientists have discovered only a fraction of corals’ potential role in biomedical applications such as bone grafting and antiviral and cancer treatments.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which governs fishing in the federal waters from Texas to the west coast of Florida, is considering measures to protect deep-sea corals by restricting the use of such fishing gear as trawls, anchors, and bottom longlines at 15 coral hot spots. When this kind of heavy gear interacts with the ocean floor, it can break or smother fragile corals, which grow very slowly and take decades to recover, if at all, once damaged. Eight additional sites in deeper waters are proposed for special place designations but without gear restrictions.

Please ask the Gulf Council to protect deep-sea corals in the Gulf from damaging fishing gear at all 23 sites.

If you would like to submit your comment directly to the Council, you can do so here.

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Tell fishery managers why you want deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Mexico to be protected. Your comment will be added to the letter below and sent to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

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Message to fishery managers

Please designate valuable deep-sea coral sites as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern

Dear Chairman Bosarge and Gulf Council members:

I am writing to ask the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to approve Coral Amendment 9.

Healthy fisheries and oceans drive the success of Gulf coastal economies, and coral communities provide important habitat for fish and invertebrates to reproduce, feed, and find shelter.

Some species of corals in the Gulf are thousands of years old. Others build reefs rising 50 feet from the ocean floor. They all grow extremely slowly and can take decades to recover from damage, if they recover at all. Researchers are only beginning to discover the potential of deep-sea dwellers in fighting cancer and other medical uses.

Coral Amendment 9 would still allow historic levels of fishing for valuable commercial species while protecting these deep-sea coral communities by designating them as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern and, in some cases, including restrictions on certain types of fishing gear. However, I am concerned that the amendment does not offer those protections for all 23 sites.

Please approve this amendment and include regulations on fishing gear that interacts with the ocean floor and could damage fragile corals at all 23 sites. It is far better to protect sites now, particularly in deeper waters where little to no fishing is occurring, rather than waiting for evidence of destruction to act.

Thank you for your work to promote sustainable Gulf of Mexico fisheries while ensuring conservation of our ocean resources.


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