PUBLISHED: 4:44 PM on Wednesday, August 13, 2008
NOAA's Fisheries Service Protects Bering Sea Habitat
NOAA's Fisheries Service has prohibited the use of bottom trawl gear in 130,000 square nautical miles of the Bering Sea, an area where the gear has not been used previously, to protect the sea bottom habitat.

"This allows bottom fishing to continue where it has occurred historically, while protecting undisturbed habitats and nearshore bottom habitat that support subsistence marine resources and blue king crab," said Doug Mecum, acting administrator for the Alaska region of NOAA's Fisheries Service. "The rule, recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, protects large areas of sea bottom for the future, with minimal effect on today's fisheries."

The agency received over 6,000 public comments on the proposed rule, which was released for review in March. The majority of comments supported the action. No changes were made in the final rule from the proposed rule. The new closure is in addition to about 290,000 square nautical miles of habitat in the North Pacific that came under new protections in 2006.

In one of the areas closed to commercial bottom trawling, the Northern Bering Sea Research Area, scientists will study the effects of bottom trawling on habitat.

For maps of the new closed area, go to The final rule and responses to public comments may be read at