Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Healthy coral reef ecosystems support fisheries and recreational activities across the world. Deep-water coral reefs found in light-limited environments deeper than 164 feet (27 fathoms) are different from the typical shallow coral reefs you might be familiar with. They can live to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and provide important habitat to many fishes and invertebrates in a part of the ocean that is cold, dark, and low in oxygen.
This week, new regulations go in place to protect some of the most precious deep-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico. Coral Amendment 9 established 13 new habitat areas of particular concern with fishing regulations and designated 8 new habitat areas of particular concern without fishing regulations. The particular areas protected by Coral Amendment 9 were chosen because they serve an important ecological function, are sensitive to human induced degradation, the habitat is stressed, or they’re rare.
You’re probably wondering how these new coral protections might affect you. Most of the areas are extremely deep and fishing activity is sparse, so it shouldn’t impact most fishermen too much, although bottom anchoring by any fishing vessel is prohibited in the areas. The regulations only limit the deployment of bottom-tending gear, including bottom longline, bottom trawl, buoy gear, dredge, pot, or trap, so this almost exclusively limits commercial fishing activity.
If you’re interested in exploring the new areas, this map will show you the locations of these new protected areas. Additionally, the new areas with regulations can be found on the Management Areas tab of our Federal Fishing Regulations.
As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding these new coral protections.