The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the availability of a new planning document that outlines current gaps in its habitat science and steps to improve its habitat assessments. The Marine Fisheries Habitat Assessment Improvement Plan (HAIP) was published in May 2010 and charts the need for a nationally-coordinated habitat science program.
There are ever-increasing demands being placed on marine habitats across many sectors of the U.S. economy, but the role of marine habitats in supporting fishery production and in providing other critical ecosystem services is poorly understood. A continuing lack of knowledge about the relationships between marine species and their habitats impedes effective resource management. The HAIP finds that such gaps in NMFS’ current habitat science limit its ability to achieve sustainable fisheries and meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
The document is intended to serve as a blueprint for NMFS for coordinating its diverse habitat research, improving habitat assessments, and guiding efforts to increase support for habitat science. With full support and implementation, the plan will: 1) develop the habitat science necessary to meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the economic, social, and environmental needs of the nation; 2) improve NMFS’ ability to identify essential fish habitat and habitat areas of particular concern and assess impacts to these areas; 3) reduce habitat-related uncertainty in stock assessments and facilitate a greater number of advanced stock assessments, including those that explicitly incorporate ecosystem considerations and spatial analyses; 4) contribute to assessments of ecosystem services; 5) enable NMFS to be prepared for management challenges associated with climate change; and 6) contribute to ecosystem-based fishery management, integrated ecosystem assessments, and coastal and marine spatial planning.
Copies of the HAIP are available online at http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st4/, or may be requested by contacting the NMFS Office of Science and Technology, Assessment and Monitoring Division at (301) 713-2363.
(July 1, 2010)