Because MAFMC allowed anyone who had EVER landed a sea bass to get a "moratorium" permit in the late 1990s, the number of traps/pots probably more than quadrupled.. From my vantage as a recreational party boat skipper, it was frustrating to suddenly have to deal with so many more traps. Wrecks & reefs that had never had traps (in my experience) were suddenly loaded with rigs.
Yet, in that exact period of incredible new effort from traditional traps, and owing instead to ultra-low trawl quotas in summer flounder, seafloor habitat grew in wonderfully over many natural bottoms.
Nowadays traps are at a historic low off DelMarVa. I believe this is because IFQ allows transfer to winter trawl.
We do have several areas where, right now & despite ongoing traditional trapping, epi-benthic eruptive sessile growths are increasing.
That is, reef habitat is increasing despite no cessation of trapping.
We also have an area where intense non-traditional trapping (drop pots) may be causing habitat loss ..but not much loss.
A single pass -- one -- from a trawler undoes decades of growth in however broad an area the sweep covers. It used to be that a FLEET of trawlers (especially NC) would come into an area. Unless bottoms were too robust to tow--unless trawl operators were in fear of gear loss--bottoms were towed repeatedly before the fleet would move on.
Even that, however, is as nothing when compared to the surfclam boom -- the period when Ocean City, and every other nearby port, had enormous fleets of surf clam/quahog boats.
While it would take innumerable passes from a trawl to completely destroy even the least robust hardbottom substrates, (a peat-like/sandy clay-like hardbottom, easily broken apart by hand, of which we still have some) surf clam dredges liquify the substrate: now absolutely absent substrate, an area of reef can never regrow.
It is my absolute belief this occurred in multi-square mile areas. It's pretty plain in fishing's history..
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It remains true to this day: There were more sea bass landed and sold from 1950 to 1961 than in all the years since combined; and, because most of these cbass were landed by trawl, I believe that statistic, in and of itself, decries habitat loss more perfectly than any other.
Restoration's need seems so perfectly obvious to me. Yet, so far, I've seen little interest in our hardbottoms's history.