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MESA Archives: Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC)

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chart of standardized coral CPUE (5847 bytes)
Standardized catch per unit effort of gorgonian corals based on NMFS trawl survey data. Gorgonian corals are most prevalent in the Aleutian Islands and in indiscrete patches in the Gulf of Alaska.


  picture of red tree-coral (79742 bytes) Gorgonian coral such as this red tree-coral, Primnoa, provides structural habitat for rockfish and other species. Coral can be damaged by bottom trawls, longlines, and pots.

Habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC) identified by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council include offshore areas with substrates of high-micro habitat diversity, which serve as cover for groundfish and other organisms. Coral has been identified as HAPC.

Given their size and longevity, gorgonian corals may be the most vulnerable to fishing impacts. The habitat created by gorgonians can be occupied by communities with high biodiversity and can be sources of shelter for fish. To help identify fishery management actions to minimize the adverse impacts of fishing activities on coral, we analyzed the distribution and abundance of corals in Alaska and the species of fish managed by the NPFMC that are associated with coral.

chart showing frequency of coral grounds
Frequency of occurrence of coral grounds by areas of the NE Pacific Ocean
based on trawl survey data 1954-1998. (click image for .pdf version)

Soft coral, primarily Eunephthya sp., was the most frequently encountered coral in the Bering Sea based on trawl survey data. Whereas, in the Aleutian Islands gorgonian coral, primarily Primnoa sp., Paragorgia sp., and Fanellia sp., was the most frequently encountered coral. In the Gulf of Alaska gorgonian coral, primarily Callogorgia sp. and Primnoa sp., and cup coral, primarily "Scleractinia unidentified", were the most frequently encountered coral. Some fish groups appeared to be associated with a particular types of coral. For example, relative to the other coral types rockfish, sablefish, Atka mackerel, and arrowtooth flounder were infrequently found with soft coral. Whereas, gadids, Greenland turbot, greenlings, and other flatfish were found with soft coral in the highest relative proportion. One alternative the NPFMC is considering is to close to fishing areas that have the highest abundance of coral. For gorgonian corals, this would include areas in the vicinity of Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutian Islands and areas off the end of the Kenai Peninsula and in Dixon entrance in the Gulf of Alaska. For a more comprehensive discussion of coral in Alaska see:

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