Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Coral Research and Restoration

Action status

  • Implemented
  • Undergoing NMFS Review
  • Approved by Council
  • Under development by the Council

A Draft Restoration Plan and NEPA Evaluation for the YFD-70 Dry Dock (“Draft Restoration Plan”) was released by NOAA for public comment in December 2022 and the public comment period closed March 15, 2023. The Draft Restoration Plan is the result of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process that began after the dry dock sank in 2016 and pursuant to the settlement, ONMS recovered approximately $8.7 million for restoration actions. 

In February 2023, Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries (GFNMS and MBNMS) sent a joint letter to the Council to share the Draft Restoration Plan and provide additional details on coral restoration locations planned for restoration actions beginning in 2025 (Agenda Item F.4.a, Supplemental ONMS Report 1, March 2023). That report detailed a proposed deep-sea coral restoration project that focused on deep-sea coral outplanting in two to five locations.  In that letter, ONMS encouraged the Council to consider pathways to protect potential coral restoration sites from groundfish bottom-contact fishing gear in the future.  At the March 2023 meeting, the Council was considering final action on Amendment 32, which made changes to the non-trawl RCA and opened up areas of interest to ONMS for coral restoration.  While the timing did not allow for the Council and ONMS to include any area closures for coral restoration under the Amendment 32 action, the Council did commit to considering the matter at a future meeting. 

In September 2023, ONMS presented a scoping paper that posed five locations (the same general locations posed in the March 2023 letter) with ten areas (or ‘sites’) within GFNMS and MBNMS (Agenda Item H.2.a, ONMS Report 1, September 2023) for restoration and research (i.e., expanding the previous scope to add research).  Ultimately, the Council chose to only continue to scope closures at the locations of Año Nuevo and Ascension Canyons (two sites) and Sur Ridge (one site) for areas to promote coral research and restoration.  These three sites have been opened to fishing by non-trawl gears and were never closed through the non-trawl RCA.  The Council proposed these areas to be closed to bottom contact gears.   

At the March 2024 meeting, the Council adopted a range of alternatives that included modified versions of the Año Nuevo and Ascension Canyon sites to address concerns raised by the public of closing off key fishing grounds shallower than 400 fm (Agenda Item E.2.a, Supplemental NMFS Report 2, March 2024) and enforcement concerns (Agenda Item E.2.a, Supplemental EC Report 1, March 2024).  The Council also confirmed that the sites would only be closed to commercial groundfish bottom contact gears and no other gear types or fisheries would be included in the closures.  At the June 2024 meeting, the Council is expected to take final action on the closures so that ONMS can begin deep-sea coral outplanting in 2025.