Once abundant, ocean sea life populations are now at critically low levels due to decades of overfishing, habitat loss, and mismanagement. Yet, Congress is taking active steps to roll back America�s ocean fish conservation law. Your help is needed to tell Congress that our oceans need more protection � not less.
From New England groundfish, to Gulf red snapper, to West Coast rockfish, America's once abundant sea life is disappearing. Destructive fishing practices - that kill too many fish and damage sensitive seafloor habitats important to ocean animals for food and shelter - are breaking the circle of life.
Our oceans are being emptied of marine life, putting our oceans at great risk.
Urge your U.S. Representative to support legislation that protects our oceans from destructive fishing practices that deplete our oceans, damage sensitive habitats, and needlessly kill significant amounts of marine life.
The North Pacific Ocean contains some of the most productive marine environments in the world. This region provides over half of all US seafood and has the greatest concentrations of marine mammals, fish, and seabirds on the planet. Oceana's North Pacific Regional Office is working hard to ensure that this world-renowned ecosystem stays healthy.
"The Grand Archipelago of the North"
The Aleutian Islands Region is one of the most spectacular and unique places on the planet. Most of the Aleutian Archipelago is located within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The volcanic islands, islets, spires, and headlands of this incredible �protected area� and adjacent state waters provide habitats for many of the last great seabird and marine mammal concentrations in the world. Scientists have identified more than 450 species of fish, crustaceans and mollusks; 50 species of seabirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors; and 25 species of marine mammals in the region.
Part of the reason this ecosystem is so productive is that upwelling from the Aleutian Trench brings nutrients to the surface. Here, tiny plants called phytoplankton use the nutrients to form the base of the food chain. This abundance of food, combined with the unique currents and complex seafloor makes the Aleutian Islands a biological "hot-spot". The orange and red on the map show the areas of highest plankton productivity, rich in food for marine life.
Natural Treasures of the Deep-Sea
Some of the most fascinating creatures in this region are found hundreds of feet below the surface. Here, deep-sea corals and sponges thrive on the strong currents and rocky volcanic slopes, providing habitat for dozens of fish and other marine life. These colorful, plant-like creatures are actually animals that can be hundreds to thousands of years old. They provide medicines for human diseases and information about climate patterns over the centuries.
Putting Our Oceans At Risk
Unfortunately, valuable commercial fish species like rockfish, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod are found in and among these coral and sponge gardens. Equipped with huge rollers, bottom trawl nets effectively clearcut the ocean floor to fill their nets with fish. The nets also bring corals and sponges to the surface and the rollers crush the habitat in its path.
Bottom trawling accounts for over 97% of the total observed bycatch of coral and sponge. The destruction of ancient seafloor habitat is irreversible, unable to fully recover for hundreds to thousands of years. Yet, there are no management measures in place to stop or even reduce the bycatch of these valuable living habitats.
The North Pacific Office has called on both the state and federal management agencies responsible in the North Pacific to take immediate action to address this destructive fishing practice. Through formal proposals, letters, meetings, public testimony, and participation in the public process, we have asked these authorities to:
Close known coral and sponge areas to bottom trawling, in favor of less destructive gears,
Set annual limits on coral and sponge bycatch that close fisheries when exceeded, and
Obtain better data by increasing observer coverage, requiring vessel monitoring systems (VMS), and mapping the distribution of coral and sponge.
We believe that fishing is extremely important to Alaska's economy and to local communities. We hope to work with the government, fishers, and local communities to find effective solutions to this problem. And in the end, we want to ensure that these activities are sustainable so future generations can enjoy the rich bounty of the North Pacific that we do today.
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