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Ocean Canyon Protection—Four Fish Habitat Protection Areas Make the List

Four canyons in the Mid-Atlantic region are now part of the national system of Marine Protected Areas. MPAs are areas where natural and cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters. They span a range of habitats, including open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries, and the Great Lakes.

NOAA Fisheries, in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, nominated the following canyons:

  • Lydonia and Oceanographer Canyons off the south coast
    of Cape Cod,
  • Veatch Canyon east of New Jersey, and
  • Norfolk Canyon east of Virginia.

The four canyons were already closed to bottom trawling under the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) to protect 113,000 acres of deep-sea corals, sponges, and clay outcroppings. They had been identified in 2009 as habitat areas of particular concern for juvenile and adult tilefish: the bottom-tending mobile fishing gear used in the area can cause permanent damage to the habitat.

Now that these canyons are part of the national system, existing regulations under the Tilefish FMP remain the same and there are additional opportunities for partnerships with other federal and state marine protected areas to advance common conservation objectives.

NOAA’s protection of these canyons supports the national economy by helping to sustain fisheries and maintain healthy marine ecosystems for recreation. Of special note, these are the first federal fishery management sites to be listed in the national system of MPAs.

For more information on these and other areas where NOAA and the regional fisheries management councils have designated habitat areas of particular concern and protected fish habitat, visit the EFH Mapper.


Canyon Coral Scape

Oceanographer Canyon Coral Scape