Dissecting the deep sea coral language in H.R. 5946 – the meat and bones (mesoglea and septa)

Deep sea corals are happy today

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (as amended to H.R. 5946) was passed by Congress on December 9 at 1:25 A.M. Two provisions of this legislation specifically address deep sea corals (sections 105 and 408):

Section 105 authorizes (via discretionary authority) the Regional Fishery Management Councils to restrict the use of destructive types of fishing gear within areas of known deep sea coral habitat. This provision intends to promote a proactive approach towards deep sea coral protection. Furthermore, Council activity does not need to be linked to a determination of deep sea corals as essential fish habitat for individual or complex fisheries. In other words, the Councils now can protect deep sea corals for their own merit as valuable and vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Section 408 establishes a coordinated deep sea coral research program at NOAA. Coordination should include the deep sea coral research currently carried out at NOAA on an ad-hoc basis, plus any new research. Program goals include the mapping of locations of deep sea coral habitat, reducing the interactions between fishing gear and deep sea corals, and the reporting of management relevant information to the Councils. This program is “subject to the availability of appropriations,” presumably meaning that NOAA would have to highlight funds in its annual budget for this activity.

For the full text of H.R. 5946 go to: Search Thomas (enter “H.R. 5946” in the search bar).

Posted by Steven Lutz