Please Help Protect Alaska's Ocean Ecosystems

Alaskan waters are among the world's most diverse, productive and complex marine ecosystems. The seafloor of the North Pacific Ocean is adorned with magnificent, yet fragile, communities of deepwater coral and sponge, which recent scientific studies show provides essential habitat to fish, crabs and other marine life. Ongoing loss of this habitat, however, places the health of these remarkable deepwater ocean ecosystems at risk.

Like clear-cutting of old growth forests, bottom trawling fishing vessels cause extensive damage to deepwater coral habitat, potentially causing long-term changes to the entire marine ecosystem. For eight years, the federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has failed to protect Alaska's waters from the harmful effects of fishing, as required by law. In response to a court order, NMFS has finally drafted an Essential Fish Habitat Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the North Pacific, which includes the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. This EIS contains several alternatives to protect habitat from ongoing destruction, but amazingly recommends taking no action to do so!

NMFS must take action to implement measures contained in the Essential Fish Habitat alternatives to:

* Establish a network of marine reserves to fully protect 20 to 30 percent of all marine habitats (Alternative 6), or
* At a minimum, significantly increase protection for sensitive habitats by requiring less damaging fishing gear and reductions in allowable catch (Alternative 5-B), and
* Augment Alternative 5-B by adding fully protected "Habitat Areas of Particular Concern", such as seamounts, pinnacles, coral gardens, and submarine canyons.

Sign this petition to submit your public comments to support protecting Alaska's marine habitats from harmful fishing practices! The public comment period ends April 15, 2004 - please sign today!



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März 2004

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