Protection of deep-sea Atlantic corals up for debate

FILE - This undated file photo released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows deep-sea spiral coral during a dive on the New England Seamount chain in the North Atlantic Ocean. A federal panel is considering new protections Thursday, June 22, 2017, for deep-sea corals in the Atlantic Ocean that would impact commercial fishing interests off New England. Environmental organizations have come out in support of one of the proposed options, while fishing groups have opposed it, citing a host of regulations they already face. (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research via AP, File)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal panel is considering protections for deep-sea corals in the Atlantic Ocean that would impact commercial fishing interests off New England.

A committee of the New England Fishery Management Council is looking at proposals to preserve corals in two key fishing areas, the Gulf of Maine and south of Georges Bank.

The committee decided Thursday to hold off on voting on options to protect corals near Georges Bank. Coral protections in the Gulf of Maine will be considered Thursday afternoon.

Environmental organizations support an option for Georges Bank that has greater impact on shallower waters because they believe it would do more to protect vulnerable corals that can be harmed by fishing gear. Fishing groups have opposed that option, citing a host of regulations they already face.

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