Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

Top Ten Reasons to Protect New England’s Closed Areas

The regulation released today preserves protections for vital habitat areas like Cashes Ledge, shown here. These areas help restore depleted populations of cod and other species. (Photo credit: Brian Skerry)

Why should NOAA reject the plan to expand commercial fishing in 5,000 square miles of protected waters? Let us count the ways.

10. More than 100 scientists say so. The signatures on this letter read like a who’s who in marine studies. All agree this proposal is far too risky: “The habitat value of these areas for managed species will be degraded rapidly…and what progress has been made in New England will be set back through new fishing activity.”

9. More than 70,000 citizens say so. That’s right. Despite a confusing public process and a paltry 15 day comment period, more than 70 THOUSAND Americans took time to tell NOAA to just say “No” to opening closed areas.

8. More endangered whales might die. Scientists and conservationists say ending protection for the closed areas raises the riskof more deaths of harbor porpoises, humpback whales, and critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. We’ve invested a lot in protecting these animals and this rash move could undermine that.

Right whale sightings are concentrated within many of the current closed areas. Opening them to commercial fishing could put whales at risk. Map credit: Dr. Caroline Good

7. Closed areas help commercial fishermen. Studies show closed areas send fish out to surrounding waters. And maps of fishing effort show vessels work the boundaries for that very reason. With closed areas we can have our fish and eat them, too.

6. Closed areas help recreational fishermen. That’s why so many are speaking out. More than 130 charter boat captains, small business owners and community leaders sent a letter urging NOAA to keep the closed areas intact.

5. Fish need help to adapt to climate change. NOAA says protecting habitat is the best way to help fish adapt to warming waters. So why even consider removing habitat protection when we’ve seen record warm waters in New England? NOAA, please talk to NOAA.

4. Closed areas work. Closed areas were established to protect fish habitat and places spawning and juvenile fish were known to depend on. But other species have benefited. Closed areas helped turn around New England scallops, now among the nation’s highest revenue fisheries. We have a 20-year investment in habitat improvement at stake.

3. We don’t want to end up like Canada. Some New England cod stocks are already lower than where Canada’s were when they shut down cod fishing. And Canada was too late to act.

2. We don’t want to be the next Firth of Clyde. “Firth” is Scottish for “Bay” and in the bay named for Clyde the Scots learned what happens when you scrap protected areas. Spoiler alert: your fish populations crash.

1. Did we mention five THOUSAND square miles? That’s the size of Connecticut.  Are we really going to pretend that this is a minor change that doesn’t need a full analysis?


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