After reading comments written to NBC after their coverage of your work on Thursday NIGHTLY NEWS, it appears that their understanding of harm done by crab fishermen, complete with animation, was not entirely accurate. Can you comment further? —Lucinda, a retired teacher from Tennessee
First, letís clarify this issue. The part of the NBC News coverage concerning the impact of fishing on deep-sea corals, unfortunately, was misleading, and the comments made by Dr. Ross (following the graphic of trapping damage) were taken completely out of context. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, various fishermen, and scientists have worked cooperatively in the southeast region to craft workable plans to manage fisheries and habitat. The full statement made by Dr. Ross was in effect that some fishermen may damage habitat unintentionally, but many fishermen do not wish to destroy the environment. He went on to say that in a few cases there are those who do not care and who do damage the environment. He commented that in the case of these deep-sea coral habitats, relatively little damage has been observed. The comment that was aired was only ending the above by saying that those (few) who will damage such places are truly callous. There are relatively few fishermen operating around deep-coral habitats (fishing on or near the bottom) in the southeast region as far as we know, and their activities so far are in only a few places (like off east-central Florida and the Charleston Bump), and directed toward only a few regulated species (golden crab, royal red shrimp, wreckfish). Most of these regional fishermen have been cooperative with the science and management communities, and have been instrumental in helping develop a good concept for deep-water protected areas. NBC News had all these facts, but we cannot control how they decided to use them. Any confusion generated as a result of their news coverage was unfortunate. On a positive note, all of the media coverage did show the high quality and beauty of these ecosystems.
Dr. Steve W. Ross
Research Associate Professor
UNC-W, Center for Marine Science