NOAA is the principal federal agency responsible for management of living marine resources, such as deep-sea corals, within U.S. waters.
NOAA has the statutory authority to take a lead role in managing deep-sea coral ecosystems.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) allows NOAA to manage fishing-related threats to deep-sea corals and sponges in federal waters through fishery management plans developed in conjunction with the Regional Fishery Management Councils. The MSA was amended in 2007, requiring NOAA to establish the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program and providing new discretionary authority to protect deep-sea coral and sponge areas from damage caused by fishing gear.
Additionally, NOAA manages deep-sea corals under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA). The NMSA authorizes NOAA to identify and protect nationally significant habitats and resources throughout US waters. Deep-sea corals and sponges are known to occur in nine National Marine Sanctuaries and the nation's Marine National Monuments.
NOAA recognizes the need to conserve deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems within areas under its jurisdiction. NOAA works with the Regional Fishery Management Councils, other federal agencies, and partners to enhance protection of these ecosystems. NOAA's primary objectives and approaches to enhance conservation efforts for deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems include: