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Council Acts to Identify, Protect Marine Habitat
Conservation Group Applauds Progress on Complex Challenge


October 13, 2003
Monday - 12:30 am

The Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) praised the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) Sunday for moving ahead with measures designed to identify and protect important fish habitat. At its Anchorage meeting, the NPFMC adopted preliminary language in response to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to describe Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), designate Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC), and mitigate negative effects of fishing activities on EFH.

"These are complex, far-reaching decisions," MCA Executive Director Ron Clarke said following the NPFMC's vote, "and today's actions could guide fisheries management in the North Pacific for a long time. We're pleased the Council considered a wide range of information and opinions from a variety of sources, including government agencies and the public - as it typically does." As required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act - the law that governs fisheries in the huge expanse of federal waters off Alaska's coats - the NPFMC must identify EFH and monitor impacts, including any negative effects of fishing and non-fishing activities on that habitat. Impacts are manifested and measured by changes in productivity of commercially important fish species.

In its analysis for the draft EIS, National Marine Fisheries Service scientists concluded there were no demonstrable negative effects of fishing. "Despite the lack of direct evidence of measurable problems, the Council chose to address public concerns about marine habitat," Clarke said. "Through the HAPC process, localized impacts can be assessed and mitigated, if necessary. The MCA sees this approach as both prudent and appropriate."

By identifying its preliminary preferences, the Council triggers another period of public review and comment, and it will soon issue a call for proposals to nominate HAPCs. Following that comment period, the Council will revisit the issue and take action to adopt a final EIS.

The MCA is a broad-based coalition of Alaskan coastal communities, fixed and mobile gear fishermen, Community Development Quota groups, vessel owners, processors, support industries, and consumers directly and indirectly involved in the Alaska groundfish and crab fisheries, organized to promote the sustainable use of North Pacific marine resources by present and future generations, based on sound science, prudent management, and a transparent, open public process.



Source of News Release:

Marine Conservation Alliance
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