Identification of Spatial Management Areas for Protecting Marine Habitats from the Effects of Fishing in the Gulf of Maine - Georges Bank Region

Thursday, August 21, 2014: 2:50 PM
2101 (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
David Stevenson , Habitat Conservation Division, NOAA/NMFS/GARFO, Gloucester, MA
Michelle Bachman , New England Fisheries Management Council, Newburyport, MA
Andrew Applegate , New England Fishery Management Council, Newburyport, MA
The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) has recently developed two analytical tools to aid in the selection of spatial management alternatives that are designed to protect vulnerable benthic habitats in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank from the adverse effects of fishing.  A number of areas have been identified that would replace or add to gear-specific area closures that were implemented during the past 10-20 years for habitat conservation or stock re-building purposes.  The two analytical tools were a swept area seabed impact (SASI) vulnerability assessment and model and an analysis of fishery-independent survey data to identify hotspots for age 0/1 groundfish species that rely on structured habitat.  The SASI model generates geo-referenced habitat vulnerability maps using gear type, dominant substrate, and energy regime as inputs.  The groundfish hotspot analysis employs standard geostatistical methods to identify clusters of high survey catch per tow in 2002-2012 trawl and dredge survey data.  The results were weighted to account for stock status (B/Bmsy), affinity for hard substrates, degree of residency, and propensity to maintain distinct sub-populations.  Hotspots for various groundfish species were combined on the SASI grid, and the intersections between high vulnerability and high weighted hotspots values were identified.