Precious corals (also called deep-sea corals) include black, pink, red, bamboo, and gold corals, and are harvested for use in high quality jewelry. NMFS and the Council manage the fishery for precious corals in the U.S. Pacific Islands under FEPs for American Samoa, Hawaii, the Mariana Archipelago (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), and the Pacific Remote Island Areas. The U.S. fishery for gold corals in the Pacific Islands has been dormant since 2001.

In 2008, the Council recommended, and NMFS implemented, a 5-year moratorium on the harvest of gold corals in the Pacific Islands Region (73 FR 47098, August 13, 2008). The measure was a precautionary response to research that suggested that gold coral growth rates and recruitment were much lower than previously known. The Council considered additional research in 2012 that included refined gold coral growth rates and the identification of previously unknown habitat requirements. Based on that information, in 2013 the Council recommended that NMFS extend the moratorium for 5 years, which the agency did in May 2013 (78 FR 32181, May 29, 2013) and again in 2018 (83 FR 27716, June 14, 2018). The current moratorium expired on June 30, 2023, but the Council continues to be concerned about uncertainties related to slow gold coral growth rates, taxonomy, and complex habitat requirements. Extending the moratorium another 5 years will provide additional time for further research and for the Council to develop sustainable management measures for gold corals. Based on the Council’s concerns, NMFS is extending the moratorium on harvesting gold corals for 5 years, through June 30, 2028.

See Federal Register notice here for more information.