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MOREHEAD CITY – N. C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Bill Ross, joined representatives from three environmental commissions in a signing ceremony celebrating the completion of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.

In the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act, the N.C. General Assembly directed the department to prepare a plan for protecting critical fisheries habitat as a way to help in the recovery of slumping fish stocks. The CHPP describes critical habitats where marine fish and shellfish feed, spawn and grow. The CHPP also identifies threats to those habitats and makes recommendations for addressing those threats.

“Today is a celebration of all the work that has been put into this effort designed to protect and restore critical fisheries habitats,” said Ross. “ But more importantly, it is a starting point for the work that needs to be done to follow through on the plan’s recommendations.”

Joining Ross was Jimmy Johnson, chairman of the Marine Fisheries Commission, Gene Tomlinson, chairman of the Coastal Resources Commission, and Pete Peterson, representing the Environmental Management Commission.

DMF, DCM and DMF are all preparing detailed implementation plans for their respective commissions to be approved by July 1, 2005.

DENR is already taking action by enhancing enforcement of existing rules protecting fish habitat, developing a set of indicators to gauge the on-going health of the estuaries and habitats and reporting on those trends, expanding oyster restoration efforts and educating the public about the importance of these habitats.

For more information about the plan, visit http://www.ncdmf.net/habitat/index.html and for information about the event, please contact Nancy Fish, Division of Marine Fisheries, at 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632.
 
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