The Sargassum FMP is another effort undertaken by the Council to provide long-term protection to pelagic fish habitat. Approved in 2003, the management plan protects Sargassum, a free-floating seaweed found throughout the blue waters of the South Atlantic from extensive commercial harvest. Sargassum provides habitat to a wide variety of marine organisms including invertebrates, fish, sea turtles and marine birds. The seaweed is familiar to offshore fishermen who look for "weed lines" or mats of floating Sargassum where ocean currents meet and fish such as dolphin, wahoo, billfish and other pelagic species often gather to look for food and take shelter in the open ocean.
The resolution to protect pelagic Sargassum as essential fish habitat for highly migratory species, drafted by the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, was submitted by the US delegation at ICCAT's 2005 meeting in Seville, Spain. This represents a first-ever action by ICCAT to address habitat and ecosystem concerns.
Read the Council's letter to NOAA Fisheries requesting that the protection of Sargassum outside the EEZ be considered by international partners.
Read NOAA Fisheries response to the Council regarding the protection of Sargassum outside the EEZ.
NEW! Casazza and Ross. 2008. Fishes associated with pelagic Sargassum and open water lacking Sargassum in the Gulf Stream off North Carolina. Fish. Bull. 106:348–363. Download pdf.
Comparisons of Open Ocean, Surface Fish Communities off North Carolina in Two Habitats: Sargassum versus Open Water by Tara L. Casazza and Steve W. Ross