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Protect the Oculina Coral Reefs

Since 1984, NOAA has protected the remnants of the only deep-water Oculina coral reef in the world just off the coast of central Florida. By the time NOAA stepped in, shrimp trawlers had mowed down about 90% of the reef trying to get at the rock shrimp and other fish that lived among the corals. And now the LAST 10% OF THIS REEF IS THREATENED by the same shrimp trawling.

We must keep decades old protection for this unique Florida coral reef which is now threatened by less than three shrimp bottom trawlers.

I,                      , oppose the proposal (Amendment 10 to the Coral Reef plan) that would open part of the Oculina Coral Reef Habitat Area of Particular Concern (CHAPC) to bottom trawling.  Removing decades-old protections for this deep-water coral ecosystem will harm the last remaining and recovering parts of this unique marine environment and will undermine the durability of habitat protections the agency created in 1984 and later for this special place and the marine life it protects.  Coral Amendment 10 is in direct conflict with the administration’s vision for America the Beautiful and its commitment to conserving at least 30 percent of our Nation’s land and waters by 2030. We urge NOAA to honor its decades-long commitment to protecting this unique ecosystem and reject this proposal in its entirety. It would destroy this unique place for little to no potential benefit.

Why Protect the Oculina Reefs?

These are beautiful, fragile deep sea corals that grow ½ inch a year and take centuries to form mounds that can be 60-90 feet tall. They support an entire ecosystem of fish and other marine life; – many dozen species live on each coral. Overfished snappers and groupers spawn there and grow up among the corals.

Now, the shrimpers and the South Atlantic regional fishery managers are at it again. They want to drag heavy shrimp trawl nets 200-300 feet underwater within yards of the coral reef with the certainty of crashing into the reefs and continually kicking up sediment on the bottom that will smother the corals.

Recently, several Marine Conservation Institute staff members published a powerful “Scientists’ Warning of an Imperiled Ocean” which shows that if we want to preserve and restore our threatened oceans, we need to protect more areas, not less, from this type of damaging bottom trawling.

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