The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will analyze the potential impacts of fishery closures for deep-sea coral restoration and research sites. These sites are proposed to protect habitats from bottom fishing gear in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Sur Ridge, Ano Nuevo Canyon, and Ascension Canyon are the three potential sites. The fishing gear that could affect these sanctuaries at these depths would include traps and set longlines for black cod, also known as sablefish. The proposed coral research and restoration areas vary in size. Sur Ridge is 36.64 nautical square miles, Ano Neuvo Canyon is 6.5 nautical square miles, and Ascension Canyon is 2.96 nautical square miles, with the depths of all three ranging from 1574 to 5118 feet.

The Monterey Herald shared Andrew DeVogelaere, a research ecologist for NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, thoughts about the proposal, “Throughout the world, we’ve been damaging deep-sea corals even before people really even thought about them. When people see them now, they’re beautiful and inspiring.”

“Just like on land, there are some special places we don’t want to lose, like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon or beautiful areas from mining or from other sorts of human activities,” Jim Barry, a senior scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), told Monterey Herald.

California’s commercial groundfish landings were valued at over $17 million in 2023; in 2022, the black cod commercial fishery was valued at over $6 million. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch deems California black cod as a “Best Choice.”

Black cod live in waters that range from 650 to 9,000 feet deep. Captain Walter Deyerle told the Herald, “It’s like a piece of rope with hooks every 18 inches on it, pre-baited and laid out over the ocean floor. It’s about a mile long with an anchor on each side that goes to a buoy.”

“There might be some pushback from fishermen if we targeted areas for protection that were really key fishing locations for them, but right now, we’re trying to find that sweet spot,” Deyerle said.

The Santa Crux Commercial Fishermen’s Association opposes the proposal, and groups of fishermen are concerned this would push further restrictions on the black cod fishery. Deyerle told the Herald that he believes these closures are better than previous closures. However, he’s struggled to think that they should begin closing deepwater fishing grounds based on protecting coral.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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