Coral Reef NOAA
 
August 23, 2014  

Deep-Sea Corals Conservation



Conservation and Management of Deep-Sea Coral Ecosystems
   Legislative Mandates
   Conservation Objectives

Conservation and Management of Deep-sea Coral Ecosystems

NOAA is the principal federal agency responsible for management of living marine resources, such as deep-sea corals, within U.S. waters.

In July 2010, NOAA established deep-sea coral habitat areas of particular concern (C-HAPCs) in the U.S. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council region. This map depicts the C-HAPCs.
In July 2010, NOAA established deep-sea coral habitat areas of particular concern (C-HAPCs) in the US South Atlantic Fishery Management Council region. Specified fishing gear and possession of coral are prohibited in these deep-sea coral areas. Click the image to download a PDF version. Credits: Map: NOAA Fisheries Image: S. Ross et al., UNCW, NOAA/USGS DISCOVRE Cruise

Legislative Mandates

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.

Conservation Objectives

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:

  1. Protect areas containing known deep-sea coral or sponge communities from impacts of bottom-tending fishing gear;
  2. Protect areas that may support deep-sea coral and sponge communities where mobile bottom-tending fishing gear has not been used recently, as a precautionary measure;
  3. Develop regional approaches to further reduce interactions between fishing gear and deep-sea corals and sponges;
  4. Enhance conservation of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems in National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments;
  5. Assess and encourage avoidance or mitigation of adverse impacts of non-fishing activities on deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems; and
  6. Provide outreach and coordinated communications to enhance public understanding of these ecosystems.

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