To the Editor:
In the pitch-black, bone-crushing depths of the Gulf of Mexico is a cast of creatures fit for a Halloween costume party.
Vampire squid, headless chicken monsters, catsharks, sea spiders, and grouper mingle with one another thanks to the deep-sea coral habitat that plays host to such rare, vibrant gatherings. Spooky as some of these species may seem, such deep-sea dwellers have far more to fear from humans. Harmful fishing gear and energy extraction activities can permanently damage ancient corals, which could take decades to recover, if they do at all. However, a new rule published by the National Marine Fisheries Service will help safeguard these precious habitats.
Coral Amendment 9 will protect 484 square miles of deep-sea coral hotspots in the Gulf of Mexico as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern – a status that highlights priority areas for conservation, management, and research efforts. Fishery managers can recommend measures to avoid adverse impacts from activities like oil and gas drilling. Damaging fishing gear can be restricted in most of the areas, while trolling and hook-and-line fishing, which don’t affect the ocean floor where these corals live, will be permitted.
Thanks to this forward-thinking action we can count on deep sea corals to host these important, sometimes creepy, marine life menageries for countless Halloweens to come.
Preston Robertson, President
Florida Wildlife Federation