The headlines included, "Trawl Captain Declares War on deep sea corals," "Lobbyists argue 'Steller Sea Lions not that hungry'" and "Study finds Fur Seals 'Depressed and Anxious'" and featured bylines from John Henderschedt (a Council member), NOAA Administator Jane Lubchenco and Paul McGregor, a pollock industry lobbyist. The content of the paper stressed that the council needs to consider an ecosystem-based approach to fishery management, and that fur seals and Steller sea lions are currently at risk.
The reactions by Council members and industry were often positive and stimulated discussion and laughter. Seafood.com acknowledged they had to "give credit where credit was due" and called it "a creative piece of theater that amused more than angered." Greenpeace has also been distributing cocktail napkins, pens and t-shirts to remind the council to protect the Bering Sea Canyons.
Greenpeace and the Bering Sea
In 2007, Greenpeace went on an expedition to the Bering Sea to research the bountiful wildlife and unseen species that live in deep water canyons. Greenpeace and NOAA documented the presence of at least 14 species of deep-water corals and 20 sponge species in Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons. These fragile coral and sponge communities provide habitat for a high diversity of marine life, including commercially important fish and crab.
Greenpeace has been using these findings to quantify to regulators that the Bering Sea needs permanent protection in the form of marine reserves. NOAA has reported to Congress that Pribilof and Zhemchug Canyons are areas containing deep-sea corals that currently lack protection and are vulnerable to fishing impacts. Marine reserves are a proven tool to rebuild fish populations, provide a buffer against uncertainty, and protect biological diversity.
Greenpeace also formally submitted comments to the council that recommended:
• The EFH Review be amended to incorporate the best available scientific information, including maps exhibiting species distributions, for all known coral and sponge habitats in the Alaska EEZ;
• The SSC recommends that the Council initiate an accelerated EFH amendment package and HAPC process to protect coral and sponge habitats from the effects of fishing; and
• The SSC recommends that the Council drop the arbitrary and capricious non-statutory HAPC requirement that "Sites must be largely undisturbed and occur outside core fishing areas."
For more information, visit www.greenpeace.org/beringsea
VVPR info: Molly Dorozenski, Media Officer (NY), 917-864-3724, George Pletnikoff, Alaska Oceans Campaigner (Portland), 907-306-4155. John Hocevar, Oceans Campaign Director (Washington, DC), 512-577-3868