Chefs: help protect New England marine habitat

Between now and December 1, chefs and culinary professionals have an important opportunity to call for strong marine habitat protection in New England. NOAA is currently holding an open public comment period – and they want to hear from chefs and stakeholders in the food community.

You can take action by weighing in and adding your voice to the letter to NOAA below. Email Katherine Duevel at Pew Charitable Trusts to add your voice.

Text of the letter:

December 1, 2014

Mr. John K. Bullard
Regional Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930-2276

RE: OA2 DEIS Comments

Dear Regional Administrator Bullard,

We the undersigned organizations, businesses, and concerned citizens from coastal communities throughout the Northeast urge you to take your agency’s own advice and protect important marine habitat in New England. In numerous reports, web sites, position papers, and statements from agency leaders, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries) has stressed the importance of habitat protection as a way to achieve healthy marine ecosystems. If our oceans are ever to recover from decades of overfishing, and withstand to the changes coming their way from a warming planet, habitat protections will be vital.

The Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has consequences for anyone who has a stake in healthy marine ecosystems. This includes people who make their living on the water, like commercial fishermen, but also those who spend their recreational time fishing, boating, whale-watching, or enjoying other forms of ecotourism. Coastal businesses and communities that rely on tourism and fishing are concerned about the overall health of our region’s ocean waters, which attract visitors from around the world. Habitat areas that create refuges from bottom trawling and dredging will help keep a diverse mix of marine wildlife in our waters. With a strong system of protections in place, we can all enjoy the benefits of living in coastal communities supported by the abundance of the surrounding ocean.

Because we care about a healthy marine ecosystem in the waters off our coast, we support protecting large areas from destructive fishing gear like bottom draggers, and scallop and clam dredges. In the Gulf of Maine, maintaining the current closures is the best choice available, along with the addition of two new areas Down East. On Georges Bank, the alternative with the best protection is a new area that includes important habitat in the Northern Edge, and habitat that protects juvenile groundfish and spawning Atlantic herring. In Southern New England, the largest alternative extends into the Great South Channel, a key corridor for migrating fish and mammals.

In addition to the alternatives presented in the DEIS, NOAA Fisheries should improve ocean habitat in New England by:

  • Developing significantly larger areas with enhanced management for each region that will offer greater protection for all critical life stages.
  • Protecting areas where fish spawn, using data and analysis conducted by the Closed Area Technical Team.
  • Protecting remaining areas that continue to support cold water corals in Eastern Maine
  • Enhancing habitat research by establishing a network of Dedicated Habitat Research Areas (DHRAs), in all the regions, including reference areas protected from all fishing and other local human disturbance.
  • Prohibiting midwater trawl gear from the habitat management areas in order to protect fish where they live, not just on the seafloor, and to ensure abundant prey fish on which other marine animals depend.

NOAA Fisheries must take the lead on this amendment and make decisions that give New England’s marine ecosystems a chance, not just to recover, but to thrive well into the future.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

The undersigned chefs and restaurant owners in New England

Posted by: Alisha Fowler

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