Pew Responds to Column in the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

Pew Responds to Column in the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

Leda Dunmire responds to a Sept. 8 column published in the Post and Courier.

Columnist Matt Winter described a plan to create new Southeast marine protected areas in his Sept. 8 column, “Battle looms over no-fishing zones.”

For those concerned about the health of our oceans and fish populations, there should be little to fight over when federal fish managers discuss the idea. The areas are intended to protect two imperiled deep-water species, speckled hind and warsaw grouper, for which just 5 and 6 percent, respectively, of fully reproductive populations remain. The plan would also provide safe havens for recovering species, such as red grouper.

A previous rule to achieve these goals closed almost 150,000 square miles of ocean to deep-water fishing, but that rule was lifted last year. Instead, managers are considering a new plan to reconfigure up to four existing protected areas and create up to 12 new ones ranging from two to 89 square miles.

The areas, sprinkled between North Carolina and Florida, better target key habitat and spawning sites that are critical to these depleted species. Managers of these zones will likely allow fishing at the surface because the species that need protection live in deeper waters.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's expert panel already has narrowed the list of sites, removing several popular fishing spots, such as North Carolina's Big Rock, which Mr. Winter mentioned in his column.

The locations now under discussion are based on recommendations made by that 16-member panel of expert fishermen and scientists.

We need more collaboration, not dispute, to protect our precious marine resources.