NOAA Fisheries is considering a proposal to open nearly 5,000 square miles of protected New England waters to commercial fishing. Since the 1990s these protected habitats have contributed to the recovery of fish and have benefited other marine wildlife including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Recent scientific assessments indicate that many New England groundfish populations -- species like cod and flounder -- are at precariously low levels and half are being fished at unsustainable rates. For example, Gulf of Maine cod is at approximately 16 percent of what is considered a healthy population, while Georges Bank cod is at just 7 percent. Eliminating protections for these at-risk species could push them beyond their ability to recover.
Please join us in urging NOAA Fisheries to complete a full environmental statement of the proposal prior to reopening any protected areas to additional fishing.
Subject: Groundfish Sector Access to Closed Areas
Dear Regional Administrator Bullard,
I strongly oppose NOAA Fisheries' proposal to potentially open nearly 5,000 square miles of protected New England waters to commercial fishing. These areas have been protecting habitat and contributing to the recovery of fish and other wildlife for nearly two decades. With several groundfish species still severely depleted, now is not the time to eliminate protections and risk pushing these groundfish beyond their ability to recover.
[Your comments will be inserted here.]
Recent scientific assessments indicate that many of New England's groundfish populations are at precariously low levels and half are being fished at unsustainable rates. For example, Gulf of Maine cod is at approximately 16 percent of what is considered a healthy population, while Georges Bank cod is at just 7 percent. Removing protections for juvenile and spawning fish will result in even greater damage to these populations, their habitat, and the fishing communities that depend on them.
These proposed changes to protected areas represent a fundamental change in the way marine resources are managed for the public good and will have significant impacts to the region's ocean habitat. I urge NOAA Fisheries to complete a full analysis of the potential biological and economic impacts prior to reopening any currently protected areas to additional fishing. In short, an environmental impact statement is needed.
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