The Pacific Fishery Management Council announced safeguards to protect the rich coral deposits on the sea floor around the Channel Islands area, which will have an effect on deep sea fishing off the Southern California coast.
Federal fishery regulators voted to protect a 16,000-square-mile swath of sensitive ocean habitat off Southern California in a rare agreement lauded by both marine conservationists and fishing fleets.
“This is the new gold standard for habitat protection,” said Geoff Shester, California program director for the conservation group Oceana, one of the organizations that drafted the proposal. “I think we own it now in California.”
The Pacific Fishery Management Council placed the waters around the Channel Islands from San Diego to Point Conception off limits to trawling, a fishing technique that involves dragging large nets across the sea floor. The process is used to catch rockfish, but can damage deep sea corals and other sensitive habitat.
As part of the decision, the council also reopened large, productive fishing grounds previously closed to rockfish fleets.
The end result, he said, is improved protection for high-priority habitat, the rocky outcroppings, reefs, coral gardens and sponge beds that harbor rich biodiversity and serve as nurseries for young rockfish and other species — the very fish that anglers depend on.