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Environmentalists welcome move to protect Atlantic coral reefs

An area of ocean on the Atlantic coast, which is nearly the size of the state of Kentucky, is set to be protected from trawl fishing in an effort safeguard deep sea coral and the ocean environment.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has approved an amendment to create “deep sea coral zones” in areas “where corals have been observed or where they are likely to occur”.

If the amendment is approved by the Secretary of Commerce then fishermen within the zones will not be allowed to use any type of bottom-tending fishing gear such as trawls, dredges, bottom longlines, and traps. The total area that has been proposed is more than 38,000 square miles.

The move has been welcomed by eco charities, including Oceana, as fishing in coral reefs is considered to be one of the biggest threat’s facing the world’s oceans.

“The Mid-Atlantic Council should be applauded for taking action to protect fragile corals off the East Coast, from Long Island to North Carolina,” said a spokesman from Oceana.

“Destructive fishing gear can wreak havoc in coral gardens by essentially bulldozing millions of pounds of ancient corals that can take hundreds of years to grow back.

“By conserving habitats that have high concentrations of corals, the Council is also helping to protect the larger ocean ecosystem where many commercially and recreationally valuable fish species make their homes.”

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has thanked the marine industry for its cooperation with the project.

“This historic action by the Council was made possible by the cooperation of a broad group of fishermen, advisors, coral researchers, conservation groups, Council members, and staff,” said Council chairman Rick Robins.

“Many people deserve credit for their collaborative efforts to refine the coral protection areas in a way that protects deep sea corals in our region while accommodating current fishing practices.”

The decision has come in the same week as World Oceans Day (June 8) which is designed to highlight the need to protect the oceans for future generations. A variety of events and initiatives — including Goolge’s new underwater Street View — have been held to try and raise awareness.

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