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New England’s Newest Fishery Plan has Science at Its Core

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Fredrik Ohlander bit.ly/2FZe72W

New England’s fishery managers have released a sweeping new plan for managing the ocean ecosystems off New England’s coasts. Habitat Omnibus Amendment 2 has been fourteen years in the making and, as with any new fishing rule, it’s been controversial, with critics among the fishing industry and environmental advocates.

 

It has also been hailed as a groundbreaking application of ocean science.

 

The plan designates a number of areas in which fishing will be restricted in order to protect the physical structure of the seafloor. It’s all based on a model that synthesizes state-of-the-art maps and video surveys of the seafloor, the habitat preferences of individual species, and what’s known about the environmental impacts of different fishing gear.

With dozens of different species – from cod, to scallops, to lobsters – to consider, it’s an enormous juggling act. Michelle Bachman, the lead fishery analyst for habitat with the New England Fishery Management Council, says that if there are critics on both sides, that probably means the Council has done its job. And she notes that no one is pretending this plan is either perfect or final.

 

In fact, one of the most notable features of Amendment 2 is the fact that it sets aside two areas specifically for further research and experimentation to address the open, and often contentious, questions about the effect of habitat protections on commercial fisheries. And the entire amendment will likely be reviewed and revised in ten years.

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.