Grants Support Marine Habitat Restoration
WASHINGTON, DC, January 27, 2003 (ENS) - A public-private partnership has issued $118,315 in grants for nine new community based marine habitat and resource restoration projects.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Ocean Trust and the National Fisheries Institute said the projects are designed to enhance a variety of marine habitats and fisheries in the coastal areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, Washington and Alaska. Ocean Trust is coordinating the projects, with technical input from NMFS regional staff.
"Restoring our coastal environment and commercial fisheries to a healthy level is a priority for the Bush Administration," said Bill Hogarth, director of NMFS. "With the support of Ocean Trust, the National Fisheries Institute and other partners, we are making progress in this area by encouraging the local community to work with us on restoration projects and to raise awareness of the importance of our valuable marine habitats."
The partnership began in June 2000 with three initial projects. For each project, NMFS regional staff works with communities to aid in project development and implementation. Projects are monitored and maintained by communities, promoting stewardship and a heightened appreciation for the environment and its well being.
"The commercial fish and seafood industry is committed to the restoration and conservation of important fish habitat," said Justin LeBlanc, National Fisheries Institute vice president for government relations. "Restoring these areas means a healthier coastal environment and improved fisheries for fishermen and consumers who love seafood."
Officials encouraged seafood businesses and volunteers to get involved in habitat restoration by submitting proposals during the 2003 project solicitation period that will open on January 15.
"We'd like to invite seafood companies, restaurants, retailers and the public to join in this partnership to restore habitat and local fisheries," said Thor Lassen, president of Ocean Trust. "This is a tremendous opportunity to build a strong coalition with public participants to enhance fishery dependent ecosystems."
While the overall goal of habitat restoration is the same, the projects are diverse. In Massachusetts, for example, Ocean Trust and NMFS are working with Egg Island Oyster Company and the Wellfleet Shellfish Department to restore the Cape Cod quahog fishery.
In Connecticut, the partners are working with the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative and the Nature Conservancy to re-establish a commercial oyster bed and create an oyster spawning site in Oyster River. And in New York, the partners are working with Cornell Cooperative Extension and local shellfish growers to enhance bay scallop stocks and study benefits of scallop cage culture as habitat for blackfish in Hallocks Bay and Hay Harbor.
In south Texas, Ocean Trust and NMFS are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local shrimp companies to advance the largest single restoration project in the U.S. at Bahia Grande, an 11,000 acre shallow water estuary.
NMFS provides financial and technical support for the partnership through its Community Based Restoration Program (CRP). The program has been working with community organizations to support effective habitat restoration projects in marine, estuarine and riparian areas since 1996.
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