CHARLESTON - A sprawling stretch of deep sea corals in the Atlantic Ocean off the Southeast United States has been approved for protection.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, meeting in Charleston this week, approved the plan late Thursday night.
The federal government now must formally adopt it for the protections to be implemented.
The area covers about 23,000 square miles from North Carolina to Florida, and is part of a network of deep sea corals so expansive it is believed to be the world's largest.
The proposal aims to protect the area from potential damage by deep-sea commercial fishing and energy exploration.
The council's plan has been five years in the making and was developed with the help of fishermen, scientists and environmentalists.