Fish in Deep-Water
DAVID MALAKOFF’SARTICLE “U.S. ASKED TO
act immediately to protect deep-sea corals”
(News of the Week, 2 April, p. 31), reporting
on a petition to the U.S. government by the
advocacy group Oceana, suggests that fish
species found among deep-water corals are
under threat unless this habitat is protected.
Most would agree
that the destruction
of habitats that are
neither a sustain-
able or desirable
activity, given likely
measured in hun-
Oceana’s petition is
reported to claim
Act compels U.S.
regulators to protect rare or fragile fish habi-
tats from anything but minimal or temporary
disruption. But the Act pertains only to
“essential fish habitat,” defined as “those
waters and substrate necessary to fish for
spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to
). Of the scientific studies cited
within the petition, none demonstrates a crit-
ical dependency of any fish species on the
presence of deep-water corals. In the petition,
much is made of two recent studies of deep-
water corals off Norway (
) and in the Gulf of
). Nevertheless, in the Norwegian
study, only the abundance of redfish was
significantly higher in the coral habitat
compared with adjacent areas that were
fished commercially. And, even for redfish,
the paper recognized that it was unlikely that
the coral habitat had an important role in the
provision of food. Both this and the Alaskan
study simply demonstrate that fish and other
biota tend to aggregate around structures on
the seabed. The same effect can be achieved
with artificial reefs constructed of tires,
concrete blocks, or even scrapped street-cars.
There is as yet no scientific evidence to indi-
cate that the removal of deep-water coral reefs
would have an adverse effect on wider stocks
of associated species.
In an era when fisheries scientists are
striving to work constructively with the
fishing industry, petitions that generate
confusion over the real scientific issues
could divert resources away from the real
efforts and rebuilding stocks—which are
the key conservation problems facing
today’s marine ecosystems.
MICHEL J. KAISER
Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute, Falmouth, MA 02543, USA.
1. See www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/magact/mag3a.html.
2. J. H. Fossa, P. B. Mortensen, D. M. Furevik,
3. K. J. Kreiger, B. L.Wing,
, 83 (2002).
Starting a Global
DOES A COUNTRY NEED TO PUBLISH ITS OWN
internationally recognized journals to be a
debated recently by a group of Japanese
scientists, as reported by D. Normile
(“Japan ponders starting a global journal,”
News of the Week, 12 March, p. 1599).
Following an objective analysis, they