Protect Habitat

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council works to ensure that fisheries management and other uses of the ocean prioritize the long-term health of marine ecosystems.

AMCC advocates for policies that protect habitat, minimize waste, and prevent overfishing. We work with coastal communities, fishermen and Tribes to develop local knowledge maps locating important habitat areas for fish, crab and other marine life. Together with sound science, local knowledge maps can help identify places that may need protection from bottom trawl gear or that would be particularly vulnerable to harm from oil and gas development.

Traditional bottom trawling, used to harvest groundfish species such as Atka mackerel, rockfish, cod, and flatfishes, operates by dragging nets along the seafloor. This fishing method destroys living seafloor habitat like corals, sponges and other vulnerable species  whose effect on fishery success we are only beginning to understand. Traditional bottom trawls crush, upend, and remove high-relief habitat features. They produce results on the sea floor similar to those a plough would generate on land (Puig et al. 2012).

Fortunately, flatfish vessels in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea are required to use or will soon be required to use modified trawl gear. The new gear uses spaced discs to elevate the trawl at least 2 and up to 4 inches above the ocean floor, reducing contact with the ocean floor by as much as 90% (NOAA 2012). While this reduces trawl damage to the seafloor, the modifications are not perfect. Modified trawls still contact the ocean floor and still seriously damage high-relief features like coral, sponges, and sea whips that stand more than 2-4 inches high. Repeated bottom trawling in an area, even with elevated sweeps, may alter subtle habitat features and seafloor communities in ways that are hard to measure.

Current Priorities:

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