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