Subject: Fish Habitat

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 10:49:56 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Fish Habitat

Fish Habitat

By SCOTT SONNER
 Associated Press Writer
   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration moved Friday to
increase protection of fish habitats to help reverse marine
population declines along U.S. coasts.
   The new guidelines were ordered by legislation President Clinton
signed last year directing regional fishery councils to identify
and protect "essential fish habitat."
   "One of the top national priorities is to make a closer tie
between habitat, protected resources and sustainable fisheries,"
said Nancy Foster, deputy assistant administrator of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
   The councils will identify damage to fisheries caused by fishing
practices and specific fishing gear, such as the huge nets towed by
factory trawlers.
   "Until now, the habitat protection provisions of the act were a
low priority for some councils," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska,
lead author of the fisheries bill Congress approved last year.
   "We intend to curtail fishing practices that are destructive to
essential fish habitat," he said.
   Stevens said he would use his new position as chairman of the
Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure enough money is provided
to achieve the goals.
   The fishing industry, conservation groups, congressional leaders
and federal administrators worked together in drafting the
guidelines, which are open for public comment through Feb. 12,
Foster said.
   The law requires regional councils to describe, identify and
protect "those waters ... necessary to fish for spawning,
breeding, feeding or growth to maturity."
   Richard Gutting of the National Fisheries Institute said loss of
wetlands and coastal habitat ranges from 100,000 to 500,000 acres a
year.
   These waters are important nursery areas for about three-fourths
of the entire U.S. commercial fish and shellfish harvested
annually, he said.
   "This initiative is an essential step along the road to
recovery of our nation's finfish, shellfish, marine mammals and sea
turtles," said Roger McManus, president of the Center for Marine
Conservation.