The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act defines Essential Fish Habitats as "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity." This law requires regional fishery management councils to take EFH into account to help fishes survive to maturity.
Our Marine Biogeographer Dr. John Guinotte and three Australian colleagues recently published a commentary in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change. They explain that coral ecosystems in the "mesophotic" zone, below depths where scientists traditionally use scuba equipment, can be safe havens for fishes that are now depleted in shallow waters. Thus, these deep refuges are essential fish habitats.
The Marine Conservation Institute is going to ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council to protect more deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems along the US West Coast as Essential Fish Habitat. Dr. Guinotte's predictive habitat models show where conditions are favorable to these deeper coral ecosystems, and where we should be asking for protections.
We are doing this because fishing practices like bottom trawling are growing threats to corals in deeper waters. Bottom trawling for shrimps or fishes crushes and removes corals from the seabed. Protecting these vital areas from bottom trawling will safeguard essential fish habitat and biodiversity.
Predictive habitat modeling provides a basis for acting wisely. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect marine life that live in coral reefs.
To learn more about our work to protect deep-sea corals, please visit our website. And to help us do this work, to save marine life for us and future generations, please click here.