From: The Honorable Sam Farr
Sent By:
zoe.gentes@mail.house.gov

Date: 9/12/2016

Protect Essential Fish Habitats in the Pacific

Closing Date: COB Wednesday September 21, 2016

Cosigners: Farr, Honda, Napolitano, Lee, Eshoo

Dear Colleague,

In 2006, NOAA Fisheries took action to protect groundfish Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) from bottom trawling, based on a recommendation from the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). Unfortunately, the PFMC is now considering alternatives that would
reopen some of these protected areas, resulting in a net conservation loss in some regions off our nation’s West Coast.

Additionally, the PFMC is also considering reopening large areas of the trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA). The RCA has been closed for over a decade to protect depleted species of rockfish, and it is critical that essential habitats in the RCA remain
protected through new or expanded EFH Conservation Areas. The PMFC should continue to protect the deep-water ecosystem off the West Coast from all bottom contact fishing gear.

Rocky reefs, seamounts, underwater canyons, corals, sponges and other living seafloor structures play a vital role not only in the survival and recovery of recreationally and commercially important fish, but also in supporting healthy ocean ecosystems. The
PFMC’s upcoming deliberations offer an opportunity to safeguard ocean resources by increasing, not decreasing, overall seafloor habitat protections across all regions of the West Coast EEZ.

Please join me in expressing support for the protection and expansion of Essential Fish Habitat, and sign on to the attached letter to NOAA Fisheries and the PFMC.
To sign on by COB September 21, or if you have any questions, please contact Zoe Gentes (zoe.gentes@mail.house.gov; x52861) in my office.

 

Sincerely,

Sam Farr

Member of Congress

————————————

 

September 22, 2016

 

Ms. Eileen Sobeck

Assistant Administrator

NOAA Fisheries

1315 East-West Highway

Silver Spring, MD 20910

 

RE: Pacific Coast Essential Fish Habitat Conservation

Dear Ms. Sobeck:

We write to express support for protecting marine habitat off the West Coast, including Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). Rocky reefs, seamounts, underwater canyons and other structures, as well as living seafloor habitat like corals and sponges, all play a
vital role not only in the survival and recovery of recreationally and commercially important fish, but also in supporting healthy ocean ecosystems.

In 2006, NOAA Fisheries took action to protect groundfish EFH from bottom trawling based on a unanimous recommendation from the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). This landmark decision prevented the expansion of bottom trawling into certain previously
untrawled areas and protected many known priority habitat, advancing precautionary habitat conservation and vibrant fisheries.

As required by law, the PFMC and NOAA Fisheries completed their review of these protections to ensure that they are adequate in light of new science and information and concluded that changes to existing management are warranted. As such, the PFMC has initiated
Amendment 28 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan and adopted a range of alternatives for analysis. We encourage the PFMC and NOAA Fisheries to build on their precautionary approach, and to take action to further protect habitat and to manage
for sustainable fisheries.

The PFMC is now considering alternatives that include reopening some of the landmark EFH Conservation Areas and trawl Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA) that have been closed to bottom trawling for nearly a decade or more to protect depleted species of rockfish.
Combined with the reopening of the RCA, some alternatives would result in a net conservation loss in some regions off the West Coast, as measured by several metrics including indices of biogenic habitat (corals and sponges). EFH Conservation Areas and RCAs
should not be reopened unless such action is well supported by science and would not adversely affect EFH. We urge your strong and public support for maintaining and expanding current protections by designating new EFH Conservation Areas for priority habitat
and in places that have not yet been trawled.

Additionally, we support action to protect the deep-water ecosystem off California from all bottom contact fishing gear using MSA authority as identified by the PFMC in April 2016 as a preliminary preferred alternative.

The PFMC’s upcoming action offers an opportunity to safeguard ocean resources by increasing, not decreasing, overall seafloor habitat protections across all regions of the West Coast EEZ. We look forward to being apprised of this effort to protect valuable
seafloor habitat while maintaining fishing opportunities for U.S. West Coast communities. Thank you for your consideration and attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Sam Farr

Member of Congress

 

cc: Mr. Herb Pollard, Pacific Fishery Management Council

Mr. William Stelle, National Marine Fisheries Service

Mr. William Stelle, National Marine Fisheries Service

 

 

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