Today, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council initiated a new process that could lead to protections for the largest underwater canyons in the world. The decision came in response to requests from more than twenty organizations, including conservation groups, tribal organizations, and even seafood businesses.
The Council noted that new scientific information merits a review, referencing a recent study published by scientists from the University of California–Santa Barbara, Greenpeace, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. The study reported that the canyons are host to a high density of deep sea corals, which provide habitat for fish and other marine life. Deep sea corals can live for hundreds or even thousands of years, and are highly vulnerable to damage from fishing gear.
The Council’s measure, introduced by Council member John Henderschedt, initiates a new process to review the available science relating to the canyons, with consideration of new conservation measures as appropriate.
Council member Bill Tweit was quoted in the Washington Post today: “After getting that [scientific update], we would then assess our current fishery management, as well as habitat-protection measures, and think about whether they’re adequate or not.”
Many have been struck by the beauty of the images taken during our expedition to survey the deep sea habitats of these canyons. Now, you can explore the canyons yourself for the first time, by taking part in this submarine adventure.
The fate of these Grand Canyons of the Sea still hangs in the balance, but our hope is that we will now be able to work with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and a wide range of stakeholders – including you! – to find a solution that ensures the long-term protection of the Bering Sea ecosystem as well as the fisheries it sustains.