Solutions and Innovations

Dock Talk: Ocean Planning

2011-2014 commercial fishing vessel activity for the Northeast groundfish industry. Image via the Northeast Ocean Data Portal.

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?

Continue reading the article here.


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