Solutions and Innovations
Dock Talk: Ocean Planning
This post is an excerpt from an article by John Williamson, originally published in National Fisherman. John Williamson is a marine spatial planning and fisheries consultant as well as a former member of the New England Fishery Management Council.
The New England Fishery Management Council’s Omnibus Habitat Amendment, submitted to NMFS in January, is a complex document. Many parts are controversial. However, one little-noticed section may prove to be one of this council’s most forward-thinking actions. The section would designate the coastline from Maine through Rhode Island, from mean high water out to 20 meters depth, as a Habitat Area of Particular Concern.
The science supporting this designation is convincing; these near-coastal habitats are vital nursery grounds for larval and juvenile cod and other valuable fish species. These life-stages are particularly vulnerable to impacts from coastal development, whether from pollution, or loss of eel grass beds to name just two. The cumulative result of human activity is a net reduction in the environment’s capability to produce fish for commercial and recreational fisheries.
Our priority as fishermen should be no further loss of that productive capacity. That’s a tall order! Forty percent of Americans live in coastal counties, and more are arriving all the time. They bring with them development pressure for waterfront homes, docks and marinas; require electricity from power plants on the coast (or in the near future located at sea); demand beach nourishment; harden coastlines. In small increments these legitimate human activities stress associated nearshore marine ecosystems.
How do we deal with this?