Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA)

Joshua Rosenau over at Thoughts from Kansas reminded me about the recent reauthorizing and updating of the MSA. What’s this mean for the deep sea?

From Oceana…

The legislation significantly improves the protection of deep-sea corals and sponges from bottom trawling and other destructive fishing gear. Fisheries management councils now have the authority to close areas to protect deep sea corals without first proving that the areas are Essential Fish Habitat, a very difficult process. Also, scientist will now have a greater role in setting allowable catch limits in all US fisheries. Other improvements include the provisions to address overfishing and a new emphasis on international issues.

Specfically Section 211. establishes a deep-sea coral research and technology program. With the purpose of (1) identifying existing research on, and known locations of; (2) locating and mapping; (3) monitoring activity in known areas; (4) conducting research and survey methods; (5) developing technologies to reduce the interaction between fishing gear; and (6) prioritizing program activities in areas habitats with respect to deep-water coral.


the bill weakens the role of the public in managing its marine resources by raising barriers to the public’s access to data. It also strengthens policies to privatize our fisheries without mandating conservation standards to maintain healthy oceans.

I also worry about attention paid to deep-water corals and not the habitats that support them (e.g. seamounts) or the impact to non-coral areas. Provisions of the act still allow for trawling to damage no less sensitive soft-bottom (mud) communities. These habitats unfortunately do not spark the passion that deep coral gardens do are often neglected. To protect them really says more about what we value and lengths we will got to protect them. To protect the uncolorful, the ugly, and the unexceptional animal/environment says that life has innate value irrespective of the arbitrary worth we assign it.

Dr. M (1714 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.