A final rule was published Wednesday that closes large areas of Alaska's sea floor to bottom trawling. The move -- which was recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, is being done to protect sensitive habitat in the Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska. The new rule takes effect July 28th.
Environmentalists have long argued that coral beds, sponge gardens and underwater peaks known as seamounts will be ruined without more protection from bottom trawlers, which scrape the ocean floor with weighted nets.
The rule closes most of the Aleutian Islands fishery management area to bottom trawling. But most fishing areas that have been trawled repeatedly in the past will remain open.
The Aleutian Islands habitat conservation area established under the new rule covers more than 279-thousand square nautical miles -- or an area approximately the size of Texas and Colorado combined. In the Gulf of Alaska, ten areas along the continental slope will be closed to bottom trawling. And five small areas in Southeast Alaska also are being closed.