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New coral guide could help fishers, scientists

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

 

  This undated photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows a piece of coral, Errinopora zarhyncha, which has very rough branch-like fingers ranging in color from buff to light orange. A new field guide to Alaska corals could cool flare-ups between fishermen and scientific observers when the fragile organisms are hauled aboard Alaska fishing boats. The 67-page booklet, ``A Field Guide to Alaskan Corals,'' is the five-year effort of Juneau oceanographer Bruce Wing and Kodiak biometrician David Barnard. It includes detailed information about more than 100 coral species. Fishermen and environmentalists _ who have clashed about how to manage fisheries inhabiting sensitive coral beds _ applauded the new guide. AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries, Sheela

This undated photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows a piece of coral, Errinopora zarhyncha, which has very rough branch-like fingers ranging in color from buff to light orange. A new field guide to Alaska corals could cool flare-ups between fishermen and scientific observers when the fragile organisms are hauled aboard Alaska fishing boats. The 67-page booklet, ``A Field Guide to Alaskan Corals,'' is the five-year effort of Juneau oceanographer Bruce Wing and Kodiak biometrician David Barnard. It includes detailed information about more than 100 coral species. Fishermen and environmentalists _ who have clashed about how to manage fisheries inhabiting sensitive coral beds _ applauded the new guide.

AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries, Sheela

JUNEAU (AP) A new field guide to Alaska corals could cool flare-ups between fishermen and scientific observers when the fragile organisms are hauled aboard Alaska fishing boats.

The 67-page booklet, ''A Field Guide to Alaskan Corals,'' is the five-year effort of Juneau oceanographer Bruce Wing and Kodiak biometrician David Barnard. It includes detailed information about more than 100 coral species.

''We are just trying to provide something that allows the observer, fisherman or scuba diver to identify what he has,'' said Wing, who works at the National Marine Fisheries Service's Auke Bay Lab.

Fishermen and environmentalists who have clashed about how to manage fisheries inhabiting sensitive coral beds applauded the new guide.

''I think the fishermen need to know what the (corals) are,'' said Al Burch, executive director of the Alaska Draggers Association. ''If they can see from the book that the observer knows what he is talking about, it's something they will accept.''

The publication acknowledges an important habitat in the North Pacific ecosystem, said Jon Warrenchuk, a Juneau-based marine scientist for Oceana, an international environmental group.

''I think it's wonderful,'' Warrenchuk said.

It also could resolve some routine confusion. Corals often are difficult to identify because they change shapes in different environments.

Wing began studying Alaska corals long before they were deemed an important groundfish habitat, a finding that set off a tug-of-war between commercial fishermen, regulators and environmentalists.

His work began in the 1960s, when fishermen and scuba divers brought him coral fragments and asked him to identify them.

Wing also was sought in the 1970s for information about Alaska's red tree corals, which were showing up in the global coral jewelry trade.

In the late 1980s, researchers determined that trawling harmed red tree corals, which provided critical habitat for rockfish, Wing said.

But Wing and Barnard's Alaska coral studies didn't really take off until the mid-1990s, when the state Department of Fish and Game began its observer program on Aleutian crab fishing boats.

''They started bringing back corals of all sorts from the crab fisheries,'' Wing said. ''I was asked to help identify them. It just kept growing.''



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