Plan would protect 21 coral hot spots in Gulf of Mexico

Federal regulators are close to approving a protection plan for vulnerable corals in the Gulf of Mexico that would create new protected zones designed to allow the corals to grow.

The plan would create 21 protected areas off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Thirteen of the areas would carry new commercial fishing restrictions, and that has attracted the attention of fishing groups.

Environmentalists are championing the protection plan as a way to spare slow-growing corals from fishing gear. Pew Charitable Trusts has characterized the plan as a way to protect nearly 500 square miles of slow-growing coral “hot spots,” which support vulnerable ocean ecosystems.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is taking comments about the proposal until Nov. 25.

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